For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 17, 2002
Mrs. Bush's Remarks About the Underground Railroad at Freedom Center Dedication
Thank you, Congressman (Rob) Portman, Senator DeWine, Congressman Jones, Governor Taft, distinguished guests.
Today we celebrate the building of a new monument to freedom.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be a place of education and reflection, where visitors, especially our children, will learn that every human life deserves respect.and that every citizen, and every leader, has the responsibility to condemn the tragedy of slavery.
The Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights is a perfect document, but when it was written it was not in perfect practice. The pursuit of freedom for all was fueled by people who envisioned a society where all people enjoy equal opportunity and equal liberties.
During the days of the Underground Railroad, through the end of slavery and during the Civil Rights Movement, Americans of all backgrounds stood together to secure those freedoms.
And today across this country we stand united as never before under a flag that represents the hard-fought struggle for freedom and liberty for all.
The Underground Railroad is proof, as one man (Robert Stanton) said, that "brutal systems and brutal laws can be overturned from within.People can free themselves from bondage through individual and collective acts of courage."
The heroic stories of the Underground Railroad are powerful reminders of the mission that all Americans share in promoting the values of freedom, at home and around the world.
In the face of all odds, obstacles, and punishments, people escaped the shackles of slavery, and headed north supported by a network of compassionate people.
In one man's account of his journey along the railroad, he said, "I found a friend who harbored me three days, and fulfilled the Scriptures to perfection:
"I was hungry, and he fed me; thirsty, and he gave me drink; weary, and he ministered to my necessities; sick, and he cared for me 'till I got relieved. He took me on his own beast, and carried me 10 miles, and his wife gave me food for four days' travel."
People who cared for and supported those who traveled along the routes of the Underground Railroad put the interests of others before their own. These good Samaritans offered food and shelter, knowing full well the dangers that accompanied their kindness and the possible penalties for their compassion.
Thanks to the Freedom Center, Americans will have one more way to honor those who defend the belief that all men are created equal.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be a national treasure. May the Center always remind us that when we are called upon to do what is right, we will choose what is right. When people need solace and shelter, we will provide it. When we see injustice, we will correct it, and when we achieve peace and equality, we shall rejoice in it.
May we never forget the lessons of our past. And may we always remember that nothing can stop the momentum of freedom.
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