WASHINGTON, DC – Leaders of the U.S. House & Senate today held a ceremony in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and to present a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:

OPENING THE CEREMONY

“On July 2, 1964, Congress completed what may be the most fundamental, most consequential legislation in our long history.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes that every citizen has the right to pursue happiness without discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin.   This was a long time in coming, and it was the work of many people … including, of course, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who we honor today with a Congressional Gold Medal.“

PRIOR TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE MEDAL

“In the fanfare of history, it’s easy to overlook the small moments that make big things possible.  Let’s go back to July 2nd, 1963, and to somewhere far from these halls.

“Piqua – if you’ve never been – is a pleasant town in my district, in West Central Ohio.  It’s not far from Dayton, where the Wright Brothers got their start.

“Flying into Dayton that day was Burke Marshall, the Assistant Attorney General of the United States.  He was picked up by the son-in-law of the congressman he needed to see, William McCulloch, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

“Now, McCulloch was a farm kid who went to a one-room schoolhouse – but he was also a World War II vet with a law degree from Ohio State  The White House would try to rush him into something, and he’d say, ‘I’m just a country guy who has to muddle along.’

“But ‘without him,’ President Kennedy had said, the bill ‘can’t be done.’  So Marshall is there on urgent business; he’s expecting to meet with McCulloch straight away. 

“Unfortunately, the son-in-law says, the congressman is busy speaking to the Piqua Rotarians.

“So they go for a long lunch. 

“And then they take a scenic tour of the Miami Valley. 

“They get into town, but McCulloch is still with the Rotarians, so they kill time – and this is true – at the local hardware store.

“Well, the meeting finally starts, and McCulloch has two requests: (1) that the Senate doesn’t weaken the bill, and (2) that the credit is shared among both parties.

“The deal was struck, and a year later, when the final vote neared, the House paused for a standing ovation.

“And it was for William Moore McCulloch.

“There is no indispensable man.  But there is the common man.  The one who makes no distinction between the Assistant Attorney General and the local Rotarian.

“He doesn’t use his status for personal gain – he uses it to serve others.

“For him, the biggest thing is the right thing.

“His isn’t a household name, but it doesn’t have to be.

“You can find him right there – not in the fanfare – but in the fabric of history.”