Voting Rights for District of Columbia
I admire her spirit, I admire her commitment and I admire the way she has educated the entire Congress of the United States on this issue and forged a relationship with people on the other side of the aisle to get us to the point where we are.
I know that it is disappointing sometimes to feel you have come so close, and it still hasn't happened, but I am convinced it will happen, because of you, ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON. It will happen because you will not allow it not to happen.
So I wanted to be here this evening more than to simply talk about the unfairness of not having voting rights. We all know that. I wanted to be here tonight to say to you, sister, I am with you. I have marched, and I will march again. I have sat in, and I will sit in again.
I started on this issue when I was in the California State legislature, and sometimes I feel a little guilty because I don't think I demonstrated long enough and hard enough to show how much I care about this.
I come from a time and place in St. Louis, MO, where I was educated in an elementary school called the James Weldon Johnson elementary school, with strong teachers who taught us the Constitution. We learned the Declaration of Independence. We learned what happened with the British and about the Boston Tea Party, and we learned about Patrick Henry, who declared, "Give me liberty or give me death.''
So, whether or not it was intended, it was instilled in us that in this America, despite the fact that we had witnessed discrimination, we had been marginalized, that we have a right in this democracy to participate fully.
I really believed that, and if it was not intended, then they shouldn't have taught it to us, because we didn't think they were talking about somebody else. We truly believed they were talking about all of us.
Mr. Speaker, there is not a day that passes as I look around this Capitol that I am not reminded of the slaves that happened to build these marvelous buildings. I am reminded on a daily basis of the people who work right here in the Capitol, in these buildings, who live in the District of Columbia, who hear us wax eloquently day in and day out about democracy and participation and the Voting Rights Act.
These are the people who serve us day in and day out, and serve us well. You come into this Capitol late in the evening and you see who is working and how hard they work and what they do for all of us. And yet we walk past them every day, and we don't stop to say, "I'm so sorry. You should have the right to have the representation in the Congress of the United States that you deserve and we thought would have been guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.''
So, ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, thank you. Thank you for the love that you have for the District. I know that your constituents know this. You don't have to prove anything to anybody, because your daily work proves who you are and what your values are and what you care about.
I want you to know, November 7th gave us a new opportunity here. The people have voted, and the people have said to us they want to see change. The people are angry about what happened with Katrina. They are angry about Iraq. They are angry basically about injustice. And even those folks who oftentimes have been silent on the issue, they know injustice when they see it and feel it very deeply.
So I am hopeful that we will be able to use this time that we have to provide the leadership, to give you the support, to make sure we do justice by the District of Columbia and ensure that you get your voting rights.