Wednesday, November 02, 2005

John Kerry’s Eulogy of Rosa Parks

Senator John Kerry’s delivered a beautiful eulogy at the funeral of Rosa Parks today at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan. The following is the text of the eulogy:

Senator John Kerry - Eulogy of Rosa Parks
Detroit, Michigan
November 2, 2005 - As prepared for delivery

“When I met Rosa Parks, I was overwhelmed by this graceful, small woman’s quiet strength and humility - her conviction in taking on the army of power that was deployed before her - her courage to dig in, knowing full well the power of the courthouse, the power of the sheriff’s badge, the power of the vigilante, the power of the establishment - knowing that on dark country roads or after a knock on the door in the middle of the night, people still disappeared and died almost anonymous deaths except for those who loved them. So many killed just trying to be citizens in the land of the free.

“Rosa Parks reminded many and taught even more how to talk truth to power. In an era when these words are thrown around too easily, she lived the words ‘courage’ and ‘patriot’ - she loved the dream of our country more than herself and she was willing to risk it all to live the dream.

“In the struggle for civil rights, some were called to stand up to Bull Connor’s fire hoses and police dogs - some to stand up to Klan terrorism - and some to stand up to state sponsored acts of violence. But some were called simply to sit down - at lunch counters in Greensboro and Nashville and Atlanta - or on a bus in Montgomery.

“Rosa Parks was about progress, not memory. Yes, she sat down so we could stand up, but not so we could stand still.

“The bus still comes by again and again and each time we have to decide whether to go quietly to the back, or by simple acts of courage and conviction change the direction of our own country’s journey.

“If she did that, then how much greater is the responsibility of those of us with privilege and power who pay tribute to her today. The life of Rosa Parks demands deeds, not epitaphs. For the final words cannot be spoken or written while her cause is still unfinished. Nothing we say here can match what she did in that sacred moment on a municipal bus in Montgomery, Alabama. What matters now is what we do after the casket is gone, the candles are quenched, and the next bus comes by.

“For Rosa Parks and for America, it is our own time to answer ‘no’ to those who would deny or degrade equality in the name of states’ rights, or with the false claim that our history is color blind. When she sat down on that bus it was affirmative action; now we must stand up for affirmative action, for Rosa Parks and for our country.

“It is our time to demand that every vote be counted and no voters be discounted because of the color of their skin - for Rosa Parks and for our country.

“It is our time, now more than ever, to defend the right of women to live in a world where the mountaintops are no longer reserved for men. Our time to remember that after the Pope blessed her and placed rosary beads around her neck, Rosa Parks wrote to him in gratitude. She said ‘my lifetime mission has been simple, that all men and women are created equal under the eyes of our Lord.’

“For Rosa Parks and for our country, it is our time to oppose prejudice not appease it; to dispel the fear of some towards others, not exploit it; to lift up the many - not the few, and to uphold the true patriotism that does what is right, not which justifies injustice or past errors.

“Sometimes the days seem heavy and the odds seem high, but that moment on a bus in Montgomery always comes. Someone gets on that bus, refuses to equivocate or yield and changes history. Today, that someone must be us, for Rosa Parks and for our country.”


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