Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks Regarding National Multicultural Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration
Thank you. It is a great honor to be in the presence of so many African-American pastors, including Pastor C.L. Jackson. There is no battle I would want to fight, no movement I would want to join, if it did not include a man of God by the name of C.L. Jackson. Dr. Jackson, thank you for your inspiring example, inspiration that comes not of this world, but the heavens above. It is a great honor to be in the presence of Alice Patterson and the members of Justice at the Gate, my dear friend, and the leader of a great volunteer organization called the OneStar Foundation, Susan Weddington, and the founder of Wallbuilders, a man whom I believe is the preeminent authority in this nation on the spiritual roots that set this great nation on its course, David Barton.
Tomorrow we observe the 139th anniversary of Juneteenth. On June 19th, 1865, a people who had endured much, and suffered much, received great, though belated, news: they had been freed from the chains of oppression and indignity. It is a date that should be remembered as long as there is a Texas. No longer would the law recognize certain persons as property, all would be entitled to the promise of Texas: a place to pursue one’s dreams, and to test the utmost potential of freedom.
In 1776, the founders of this nation wrote, “We hold these truths to be self evident that all people, ALL PEOPLE, are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator in unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But freedom declared does not mean freedom realized. Since the day freedom was declared, we have witnessed the long, often difficult, march to equality of opportunity. It has required great sacrifice, and clear vision. And it has been advanced by pioneers who suffered much, and who risked their lives to secure a better day. They were men and women like Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, and here in Houston, Jack Yates. These Americans, and millions like them with shared roots, knew an America where certain school house doors were not open, an America where entrances to certain hotels and restaurants were closed, an America blighted by a long and ugly chapter of inequality, injustice, and intolerable cruelty. But they never lost sight of the dream, the dream of the America that could be.
No injustice, no harsh word, no act of violence could dim the flame of freedom in their hearts and minds. The America we live in today, though still being perfected, is a tribute to their enduring vision, and to that dream. It is up to us, it is up to you and me, to make this union more perfect. We must build a Texas that welcomes all and includes all, a Texas big enough for every dream, and people of every background, a Texas that says to our youngest generation: “we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we want to help you get there.”
We must empower our children by investing in their education. We must make sure that the doors of higher education are open to the best and brightest of all walks of life. That is why I support scholarship programs like TEXAS Grant, which allows students of modest means to pursue their college dreams. More Texans of African-American and Hispanic descent must also answer the call of public service. I have seldom felt so proud as the day I stood before the people of this state to appoint the first African-American justice to serve on the Texas Supreme Court, Wallace Jefferson. It was just a few generations ago that one of his ancestors was auctioned on the McLennan County Courthouse steps as property. Today a distant descendant of a slave walks up the steps of the highest civil court in our state, a peer among nine equals.
On January 1st, 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the slaves “forever free.” He wrote in the Emancipation Proclamation, “upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.” This Juneteenth, we know that God’s favor has blessed this land. Freedom once deprived is now abundant to all. And the promise of tomorrow is a promise all can inherit.
We are a Texas of great diversity but common hopes: that our children succeed and live meaningful lives, that our communities are vibrant and safe, that economic opportunity is ample, and that our own lives would leave a lasting imprint on this Texas we love. May all Texans celebrate Juneteenth as a great day of freedom, and may we all renew our commitment to use freedom to pursue the common good.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the great people of Texas.
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