President Obama, at the opening and dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, noted the beauty of the building which stands five stories high and some 70 feet below the ground and sited just across the street from the Washington Monument.
He said, “This museum tells a story of America that hasn’t always taken a front seat in our national narrative. As a people, we’ve rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country. But too often, willful or not, we’ve chosen to gloss over or ignore entirely the experience of millions upon millions of others.”
He argued that the museum tells a comprehensive story encompassing uncomfortable truths, the country’s imperfections, and patriotic recognition that it is a constant work in progress.
“It is within our collective power to align this nation with the high ideals of our founding,” he posited.
He explained that it is on this premise one will “See the shackles of an enslaved child and in the hope of Harriet Tubman’s gospel hymnal. You’ll see it in the tragedy of Emmett Till’s coffin and in the resilience of a lunch counter stool and in the triumph of a Tuskegee Airplane. You’ll see it in the shadow of a prison guard tower and in the defiance of Jesse Owens’ cleats and in the American pride of Colin Powell’s uniform.”
He stated that this should not be viewed as the African-American story but must be seen as part of the American story.
“And so it is entirely fitting that we tell this story on our National Mall, the same place we tell the stories of Washington and Jefferson and our independence; the story of Lincoln who saved our union and the GIs who defended it; the story of King who summoned us all toward the mountaintop,” said the President.
He further noted that it should not be a short term celebration but a historic moment that should continue into the future.
“It’s a chance to reflect on our past and set a course for the future. Because here in this country, all of us, no matter what our station in life, have the chance to pick up the pen, and write our own chapter for our time,” concluded the President.
Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow
Edited by Jesus Chan
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