Pelosi Remarks at Bill Enrollment Photo Opportunity for Juneteenth National Independence Day Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and members of the Congressional Black Caucus for a bill enrollment photo opportunity today for S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. And a good morning it is. It is one filled with joy and pride as the Congress takes this overdue action to declare Juneteenth, a national holiday.
We salute Sheila Jackson Lee, cosponsor of the legislation, and Danny Davis – is Danny with us? The original sponsor of the legislation. Where is he? Is he here?
Hey, Danny. Thank you.
And let us salute the Congressional Black Caucus under the leadership of Joyce Beatty, for their leadership on all this. The Black Caucus, all of you, have worked for this recognition for a long time, so this is a great day.
And let us recognize the Texas delegation, which received this message – not this delegation, but –
Texas received this message in 1865, nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Let's hear it for Texas.
Not quite Sheila’s district, but abutting.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee. Abutting. It’s Galveston –
Speaker Pelosi. It’s Galveston. It’s actually where Barbara Lee –
Congresswoman Jackson Lee. Was born.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, she was born, but also her grandfather –
Congressman Butterfield. 1875.
Speaker Pelosi. Ten years after this, he was born, and her great-grandmother was a slave in Galveston when this proclamation came forth. So, anyway, there’s a connection.
Activists and leaders over the years all deserve credit for this. This step is important, obviously, to the Congressional Black Caucus, but this is an important step for America as we ensure that one of the most momentous events in our history finally takes its official place of honor in our nation.
Again, over the past 156 years, Juneteenth, Juneteenth has evolved as a day not only of celebration, but of reflection, reminding us of a history much stained by brutality and injustice. We all remain committed to the fight to end racism and advance justice, which continues with a renewed urgency. In that spirit, let us strive to honor the idea of equality, America's heritage and hope.
And a champion for that, whom I have seen receive the [LBJ Foundation] Liberty & Justice For All Award, with great pride, our House Democratic Whip, Jim Clyburn.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Clyburn. Mr. Clyburn reminds us that when this word reached Texas, President Lincoln had already been assassinated. But before that, in March, he made what was called Lincoln's greatest speech, at his second inaugural. It was the first inauguration that African – Black folk were able to come as free people, not just one person here or there. But as free people. And it was raining for the days before so there was mud, of course, [the roads] were mud anyway, but full of mud. And, so, white folk came in their foul weather gear, but Black folk came in their Sunday finery.
And when people write about Lincoln's greatest speech, they write about the presence of the newly freed African Americans – they didn't call them then that – coming to the Capitol. How proud those people who came here that day would be of this Congressional Black Caucus, the largest number in history, serving in the Congress.
So, thank you, Congressional Black Caucus. And may I acknowledge, we’ve been joined by Carolyn Maloney, the Chair of the Committee of jurisdiction that brought the bill to the Floor in real time yesterday.
So let us get this signed because we’ll sign it, it will go to the Senate to be signed, then it will go to the White House to be signed. All done in one day, 24 hours.
Speaker Pelosi. Now, I’m going to yield to Mr. Butterfield.
Why don’t you go to the mic?
Congressman Butterfield. Yes.
Congressman Butterfield. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. This anthem is very sacred in our community. If you can, please rise.
Members. Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
Whip Clyburn. Let me thank all of you for being here today. The song you just heard in response to this great piece of legislation is a song that's been around for a long, long time, and it was made official back in 1930s, it became the NAACP’s official hymn.
And for some time now, James Forbes, the former director of Riverside Church, and the brother-in-law of Ed Towns, they’d been working on trying to get the country to accept this song as our national hymn. Not anthem. We've got one national anthem. We need a national hymn. And next month, he and I are going to be doing a month-long project –
On why ‘Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing:’ that was first sung on Abraham Lincoln's birthday in Jacksonville, Florida over 100 years ago, written by James Weldon Johnson and put to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson.
Congresswoman Waters. I attended James Weldon Johnson’s school.
Whip Clyburn. And you attended that school.
Congresswoman Waters. Yes, James Weldon Johnson –
Whip Clyburn. And you didn’t learn how to write?
Speaker Pelosi. Pretty soon, we’re going to get a South Carolina connection.
Whip Clyburn. Yes, we will.
But I would hope that people will really – learn the song, look at the gist of the song, look at the words of the song and think about the words. There’s not one ethnic group in the United States of America that cannot relate to that point.