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Rosa Parks honored with Congressional Gold Medal

Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal for bringing 'America home to our founders' dream'


June 15, 1999
Web posted at: 7:25 p.m. EDT (2325 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hundreds of people gathered in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday as President Clinton and top lawmakers honored civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks with the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

"This medal is encouragement for all of us to continue until all have rights," said Parks, 86, during her brief remarks.

Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 5, 1955, triggered a black boycott of the city's bus system that lasted more than a year and eventually led to laws that ended legalized segregation.

The bill to honor Parks with the Congressional Award was sponsored by Rep. Julia Carson (D-Indiana) and Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Michigan). It passed both houses of Congress by wide margins and was signed into law by Clinton.

Part 1: Prayer and song followed by speeches from Rep. Watts and Carson
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Part 2: Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Michigan), Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri) and Sen. Thomas Daschle (D-South Dakota) speak.
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Part 3: Speaker Dennis Hastert introduces President Clinton, and Clinton speaks.
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Part 4: Presentation of the resolution and Rosa Parks remarks. Prayer from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and benediction from Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, chaplain of the Senate.
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"It is not an exaggeration to say that American history has moved through and with Rosa Parks. ... This modest woman transformed an act designed to perpetuate the harsh rule of Jim Crow into the spark that ignited a determined and righteous crusade," Abraham said.

The audience of 650 people included House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri), who both made remarks honoring Parks.

Many members of the civil rights community attended, including some of the "Little Rock Nine," the black students at the center of the school desegregation crisis that drew nationwide attention in 1957.

Parks joins a select group in receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award bestowed by the U.S. government.

The first such award was given to Gen. George Washington in 1776.

"In so many ways Rosa Parks brought America home to our founders' dream," Clinton said.

"We must never ever, when this ceremony is over, forget about the power of ordinary people to stand in the fire for the cause of human dignity," he said.

Seven other Congressional Gold Medals have been awarded during the Clinton administration. Recipients include the Rev. Billy Graham in 1996 and Frank Sinatra and Mother Teresa in 1997.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Black History Month
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King's brief life left an enduring legacy
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The National Women's Hall of Fame
 •  The Women of The Hall - Rosa Parks
Academy of Achievement
 •  Rosa Parks Biography
The National Park Service
 •  Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
 •  Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change
 •  Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site
National Civil Rights Museum
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