Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
11:05 A.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. And I do love Mississippi. It’s a great place.
And thank you, Governor Bryant, for that kind introduction and for honoring me with this invitation to be with you today.
I also want to recognize Secretary Ben Carson and his wonderful wife, Candy, for joining us. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Candy.
I especially want to thank you, Justice Reuben Anderson — great man with a great reputation — even outside of the state of Mississippi. I have to tell you that. (Applause.) So, thank you. Thank you very much. And you are an inspiration to us all. Thank you, Judge.
And we’re here today to celebrate the opening of two really extraordinary museums — and I just took a tour — the Mississippi State History Museum and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
To all who helped make these wonderful places possible, we are truly grateful. We thank you. We admire you. It was hard work. It was long hours. It’s a lot of money, and I know the Governor helped with that, and that was a great thing you’ve done. That’s a great legacy, Phil, right there. Just that in itself. But it really is a beautiful, beautiful place. And it’s an honor.
These museums are labors of love — love for Mississippi, love for your nation, love for God-given dignity written into every human soul.
These buildings embody the hope that has lived in the hearts of every American for generations — the hope in a future that is more just and more free.
The Civil Rights Museum records the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to end slavery, to break down Jim Crow, to end segregation, to gain the right to vote, and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality here. (Applause.) And that’s big stuff. That’s big stuff. Those are very big phrases. Very big words.
Here, we memorialize the brave men and women who struggled to sacrifice, and sacrificed so much so that others might live in freedom.
Among those we honor are the Christian pastors who started the Civil Rights movement in their own churches preaching, like Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. — a man that we have studied and watched, and admired for my entire life — that we’re all made in the image of our Lord.
Students like James Meredith, who were persecuted for standing up for their right to the same education as every other American student. Young people, like the nine brave students who quietly sat. And they sat very stoically, but very proudly, at the Jackson Public Library in 1961. And, by the way, I would add the word “very bravely” — they sat very bravely.
And, finally, martyrs like Sergeant Medgar Wiley Evers — (applause) — whose brother I just met at the plane, and who I liked a lot — I have to — stand up, please. Come on. Stand up. You were so nice. I appreciate it. (Applause.) You were so nice. Thank you very much.
Medgar joined the U.S. Army in 1943, when he was 17 years old. He fought in Normandy in the Second World War. And when he came back home to Mississippi, he kept fighting for the same rights and freedom that he had defended in the war. Mr. Evers became a civil rights leader in his community. He helped fellow African Americans register to vote, organize boycotts, and investigated grave injustices against very innocent people.
For his courageous leadership in the Civil Rights movement, Mr. Evers was assassinated by a member of the KKK in the driveway of his own home.
We are deeply privileged to be joined today by his incredible widow — somebody that’s loved throughout large sections of our country — beyond this area. So I just want to say hello to Myrlie. Myrlie. Where is Myrlie? (Applause.) How are you, Myrlie? Thank you so much. Highly respected. Thank you. Thank you, Myrlie. And his brother, Charles. Thank you, Charles, again.
For decades, they have carried on Medgar’s real legacy — and a legacy like few people have and few people can even think of. And I want to thank them for their tremendous service to our nation.
Less than a month before Mr. Evers’s death, he delivered a historic televised address to the people of Jackson on the issue of civil rights.
In that speech, he said the following: The African American “has been here in America since 1619. This country is his home. He wants to do his part to help make this city, state, and nation a better place for everyone, regardless of color or race.”
Medgar Evers loved his family, his community, and his country. And he knew it was long past time for his nation to fulfill its founding promise: to treat every citizen as an equal child of God. (Applause.)
Four days after he was murdered, Sergeant Evers was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. In Arlington, he lies beside men and women of all races, backgrounds, and walks of life who have served and sacrificed for our country. Their headstones do not mark the color of their skin, but immortalize the courage of their deeds.
Their memories are carved in stone as American heroes. That is what Medgar Evers was. He was a great American hero. That is what the others honored in this museum were: true American heroes.
Today, we strive to be worthy of their sacrifice. We pray for inspiration from their example.
We want our country to be a place where every child, from every background, can grow up free from fear, innocent of hatred, and surrounded by love, opportunity, and hope.
Today, we pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past and dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice, and peace.
And I want to congratulate your great Governor, and all of the people in this room who were so inspirational to so many others to get out and get this done. This is an incredible tribute, not only to the state of Mississippi — a state that I love, a state where I’ve had great success — this is a tribute to our nation at the highest level.
This is a great thing you’ve done, and I want to congratulate you, and just say God bless you, and God bless America.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 11:15 A.M. CST
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