Amid complex realities of the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, President Obama offered this simple yet profound step: signing legislation to present Congressional Gold Medals to protesters who took part in the 54-mile hike.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Senate version of the bill alongside U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). The House passed the bill Feb. 11, and the Senate two weeks later. Obama signed it en route to Selma, Ala., where he delivered a rousing speech.
"Loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths," he said, Saturday (March 7). "It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what's right."
Booker echoed the sentiment via social media soon after the bill was signed. "Remembering Selma," he wrote. "We can't pay them back, we must pay it forward; forward for love, forward for justice, forward!"
The protests 50 years ago, though met with violence at the hands of state and local troopers (known as "Bloody Sunday"), eventually led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part, ruling that Congress can redraw the map that determines which localities must first get Justice Department approval before changing voting procedures, endangering years of effort to eliminate discrimination at the polls.
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(Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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