Today, during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the Foot Soldiers of the 1965 Voting Rights Marches held in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol, Speaker Ryan praised the men and women who peacefully marched to Montgomery, AL, in protest of the denial of their right to vote. “They did not only change the way that we live,” said Speaker Ryan, “they showed us how to live.” Below are his full remarks as delivered during the ceremony:
“What a beautiful day, and what a beautiful moment this is. Martin Luther King [Jr.] once said that the right of protest was the glory of America. It was our rejection of violence that made us great. And I could think of no better proof for his argument than the very people that are right here in this room.
“They lived in a country that denied them the vote. And yet they did not abandon their belief in freedom. They challenged America to live up to it. They renounced all forms of violence. They did not wield nightsticks or spray tear gas or hide behind a wall of state troopers. They didn’t do any of those things. What they did was march. And they won—they won because they awakened America’s conscience.
“Victory did not come cheap. There is always a price for freedom. And they paid it: the indignities, the injustices, the cruelties that piled up and up and up. They were called outside agitators, subversives—and other ugly names. But in the end, no lie could overpower the truth.
“And so today, we recognize them for who they are and what they are: Foot Soldiers for freedom. They did not only change the way that we live; they showed us how to live. They taught us that only a good country can be truly a free country. And so I am honored—honored—and proud to present this medal to the foot soldiers who marched—because they have added, immensely, to the glory of America.”