House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today delivered the following remarks at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony to commemorate the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley - victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama fifty years ago:
“It is a great honor to be here today. It was a great honor to accompany my colleague and friend, Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip, at the invitation of Representative Sewell and the Alabama Delegation to go on that pilgrimage to Birmingham, to Selma, to Montgomery, to retrace the steps of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. It is in that spirit that we gather today to commemorate the lives of these four little girls, Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, Denise with the Congressional Gold Medal.
“The 50th Anniversary of the attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is a strong reminder of the horror and violence endured by those who fought so hard in the Civil Rights Movement in America for the most basic freedoms this country embodies – liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness.
“On that day, America lost four innocent children who had gathered at a place of worship because the enemies of justice were determined to stop one of the greatest movements for freedom this nation ever witnessed. These enemies of justice were so determined that they even attacked a house of God. They tried to break the will of the Civil Rights Movement.
“The bombs that September morning may have shaken the walls of the church, but they could never shake the will of the people who often gathered under that steeple seeking the divine right of equality.
“It was the memory of the children - Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, and Denise that strengthened and emboldened leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks, and our own John Lewis - along with countless others who continued their pursuit of justice through peace.
“As they marched for equality, they demonstrated to the world that they would not forget the four little girls that were taken that day and they would not be intimidated.
“The Congressional Gold Medal, one of America’s highest civilian awards, is given to those who have had a great impact on American history and culture. Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, and Denise are most deserving of such an honor.”