JUNETEENTH INDEPENDENCE DAY
(Senate - June 17, 2008)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages S5703-S5704]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                      JUNETEENTH INDEPENDENCE DAY

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee 
on the Judiciary be discharged from further consideration of S. Res. 
584 and that the Senate then proceed to its immediate consideration.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The clerk will report the resolution by title.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A resolution (S. Res. 584) recognizing the historical 
     significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and expressing 
     the sense of the Senate that history should be regarded as a 
     means for understanding the past and solving the challenges 
     of the future.

  There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the 
resolution.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, this week we commemorate the 143rd 
anniversary of Juneteenth, the day our Nation's moral pendulum swung 
from slavery to freedom.
  On June 19, 1865, our Nation turned a significant corner. We ushered 
in what President Lincoln called in his Gettysburg address a ``new 
birth of freedom.'' We ended an oppression endured by generations of 
Americans and threw off the chains that shackled our common bond of 
freedom. We laid the roots for a constitutional revolution that, 
through the Civil War Amendments, transformed our founding charter from 
one that defended oppression, to one that embraced equal rights and 
human dignity.
  Over a century later we have made significant progress, but the 
struggle to secure basic rights for all remains unfulfilled. Just a few 
months ago, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All 
Forms of Discrimination found that racial disparities continue to 
challenge our commitment to equality. I was not surprised to see that 
the U.N. report rebuked this administration's poor civil rights record. 
After 9/11, the Bush administration eroded many of the most precious 
rights and liberties held by all Americans. Just last week, the Supreme 
Court in the Boumediene opinion, beat back one of these most egregious 
attempts, restoring the Great Writ of habeas corpus to its rightful 
place as a mechanism to guarantee liberty from arbitrary confinement. 
But this administration has also played politics with critical voting 
laws, and failed to protect our most vulnerable citizens. The Bush 
administration's poor civil rights record has damaged America's 
prestige around the world, and undermined our tradition of progress on 
civil rights.
  Vermont is a State that holds a unique place in America's march 
toward equal justice. It was the first to outlaw slavery. Vermonters 
offered shelter to runaway slaves seeking refuge while in transit to 
Canada. Indeed, in just the tiny town of Brandon, 17 homes were 
stations on the Underground Railroad. I am proud that this month 
Vermont joined the States recognizing Juneteenth as a State holiday. It 
is important for our children and grandchildren to know our history, 
and to know that ordinary people can make a difference.
  As we reflect on the sacrifices of past generations, their example 
should inspire us all in our present day struggle to secure human and 
civil rights. We must reaffirm our faith in our cherished freedoms and 
restore our commitment to protect basic rights. I hope all Americans 
will celebrate Juneteenth by working towards building the more perfect 
union we want for generations to come.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the resolution 
be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be 
laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate, and that any 
statements related to the resolution be printed in the Record.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The resolution (S. Res. 584) was agreed to.
  The preamble was agreed to.
  The resolution, with its preamble, reads as follows:

                              S. Res. 584

       Whereas news of the end of slavery did not reach frontier 
     areas of the United States, and in particular the 
     Southwestern States, for more than 2 years after President 
     Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, and 
     months after the conclusion of the Civil War;
       Whereas, on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major 
     General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news 
     that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were free;
       Whereas African-Americans who had been slaves in the 
     Southwest celebrated June 19, commonly known as ``Juneteenth 
     Independence Day'', as the anniversary of their emancipation;
       Whereas African-Americans from the Southwest continue the 
     tradition of celebrating Juneteenth Independence Day as 
     inspiration and encouragement for future generations;

[[Page S5704]]

       Whereas, for more than 140 years, Juneteenth Independence 
     Day celebrations have been held to honor African-American 
     freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for 
     all cultures;
       Whereas, although Juneteenth Independence Day is beginning 
     to be recognized as a national, and even global, event, the 
     history behind the celebration should not be forgotten; and
       Whereas the faith and strength of character demonstrated by 
     former slaves remains an example for all people of the United 
     States, regardless of background, religion, or race: Now, 
     therefore, be it
       Resolved, That--
       (1) the Senate--
       (A) recognizes the historical significance of Juneteenth 
     Independence Day to the Nation;
       (B) supports the continued celebration of Juneteenth 
     Independence Day to provide an opportunity for the people of 
     the United States to learn more about the past and to 
     understand better the experiences that have shaped the 
     Nation; and
       (C) encourages the people of the United States to observe 
     Juneteenth Independence Day with appropriate ceremonies, 
     activities, and programs; and
       (2) it is the sense of the Senate that--
       (A) history should be regarded as a means for understanding 
     the past and solving the challenges of the future; and
       (B) the celebration of the end of slavery is an important 
     and enriching part of the history and heritage of the United 
     States.

                          ____________________