Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at The Dedication Ceremony of Rosa Parks Education and Information Center

Ambassador Robin Reneé Sanders

Dedication Ceremony of Rosa Parks Education and Information Center

U.S. Embassy
February 27, 2008
11 a.m.

Thank you for joining me today at this dedication of our education and information center in honor of a woman of courage – Rosa Louise Parks.

We have already heard from three courageous Nigerian women. Sandra, Ene (Ena), and Lilian, I am impressed by your accomplishments and honored that you are here today.

Today’s event is just one of a series of events both in Abuja and Lagos celebrating our national day this year, with a special emphasis on our diversity as a nation and as a people. Many of you know that in the United States February is African American History Month and March, which we are fast approaching, is Women’s History Month. So I think it is fitting that we recognize the singular achievements of a woman at this particular time.

Rosa Parks, who grew up in a segregated America, was a woman of great courage. She set an example for all who stand up for their rights as human beings and for their rights to participate fully in their societies.

On Thursday evening, December 1, 1955, after a long day of work as a seamstress for a Montgomery, Alabama department store, Rosa Parks boarded a city bus to go home and took a seat in the middle section.

As the bus became full, the driver told her to move to the back to make room for white passengers. Rosa, a woman who had obeyed the law all her life, said no, and refused to get up from her seat.

As brave as she was, her action violated segregation laws, and she was arrested and jailed.

However, her courage that day set off a chain of events that reverberated throughout American society and changed the legal, historical, and cultural landscape of America.

Almost one year after Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s segregation laws were unconstitutional. The very next day, Rosa Parks, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., boarded a city bus and proudly took a seat right up front. Because of her courage Parks was nationally recognized as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement” in the United States.

A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, the highest honor given by the U.S. executive branch and cited as one of the most influential women of the 20th century, Mrs. Parks went on in life to always ensure she helped others who were less fortunate.

She worked tirelessly to motivate and direct youth to help them achieve their highest potential. Rosa Parks saw the energy of young people as a real force for change. It was among her most treasured themes of human priorities as she spoke to young people of all ages at schools, colleges, and national organizations around the world.

Her life was a profound example of courage, dignity, and determination underscoring the importance of believing in yourself, and living by your principles. Mrs. Parks’ quiet singular courageous act changed a nation, and redirected the course of the history of the United States.

Thus, it is my very great honor to dedicate this center to the life and to the legacy of this incredible global citizen – Rosa Louise Parks.

We have commissioned her portrait and a plaque to hang on the wall of this center so everyone who walks in here will feel her spirit and I hope be inspired by her commitment to justice.

And now it is with great pride that I dedicate this center to the memory of Rosa Louise Parks and hereby name it the Rosa Parks Education and Information Center.