For one of the few times as first lady, Michelle Obama today highlighted the history she is making, speaking of her own family's journey as she helped to unveil a statue of abolitionist Sojourner Truth -- the first black woman to be so honored at the Capitol.
"I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America," Obama said at the new Capitol Visitor Center.
An early crusader for giving women the right to vote, as well as ending slavery, Truth met presidents Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and Ulysses S. Grant in 1870. She tried to vote on two occasions, but was turned away both times.
"One can only imagine what Sojourner Truth, an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman...would have to say about this incredible gathering, just looking down on this day, and thinking about the legacy she has left all of us -- because we are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth," Obama added.
Her full remarks are below:
Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm not going to talk long because everybody has said just about everything that can be said. But let me tell you something, I am proud to be here.
I want to congratulate everyone who was a part of making this day possible: the NCBW, all of the elected official, C. DeLores Tucker, her family, the family of Sojourner Truth. It is just a sheer delight to have you here witnessing this.
But let's just think about this day and this gathering. It is so good to see this hall filled with so many strong women -- a few brothers in here, a few people -- (applause) -- but such a diverse group of people crowding this hall. And one can only imagine what Sojourner Truth, an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman -- and we all know a little something about that, right -- (applause) -- just to imagine what she would have to say about this incredible gathering, just looking down on this day, and thinking about the legacy she has left all of us -- because we are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth. (Applause.)
And just as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott would be pleased to know that we have a woman serving as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the First Lady of the United States of America. (Applause.) So I am proud to be here. I am proud to be able to stand here on this day with this dedication.
And just as many young boys and girls have walked through this Capitol -- I see them now, and they see the bust of suffragists and hear the stories of the struggles of women, what they had to endure to gain the right to vote -- now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them. (Applause.)
And all the visitors in the U.S. Capitol will hear the story of brave women who endured the greatest of humanities -- indignities. They'll hear the story of Sojourner Truth who didn't allow those indignities to destroy her spirit, who fought for her own freedom, and then used her powers, young people -- then she used her power to help others; who fought for the right to vote and for the rights of all women.
The power of this bust will not just be in the metal that delineates Sojourner Truth's face; it will also be in the message that defines her legacy.
Forever more, in the halls of one of our country's greatest monuments of liberty and equality, justice and freedom, Sojourner's Truth story will be told again and again and again and again. So now let's get on with unveiling this statue. Thank you so much.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.