“In this country, every student should have access to a quality public education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make”
(TACOMA, WA) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will speak at the 9th Annual MLK Unity Breakfast at the University of Washington Tacoma. Her prepared remarks are below, embargoed until delivery.
Senator Murray’s Remarks:
“It is so great to be in Tacoma today in the new University ‘Y’ Student Center here at UWT. Thank you, Chancellor Chan for that introduction and to all of our speakers today. And thank you to the Black Student Union for hosting this breakfast.
“This holiday is about remembering Dr. Martin Luther King and honoring his legacy. And it has been an honor to be here to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But it would be a missed opportunity to just celebrate that anniversary, without remembering the hard work, the sacrifice, and the struggle that made it a reality.
“For years, African Americans had endured the indignity of literacy tests and poll taxes if they even tried to cast their ballots. Some dared to defy the danger of the Jim Crow South and registered to vote, something Dr. King called the foundation stone of political action. And in early 1965, Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference focused their efforts in Alabama.
“On the march from Selma, they took part in demonstrations for justice and equality but were met with tear gas and clubs. The non-violent movement Dr. King led changed this country. And we’ve come a long way since.
“Yet despite our progress, the march toward equality is not finished. The events in Ferguson and New York last year were a tragedy. And they underscored the reality that inequality still persists for too many Americans.
“In Congress, the fight must continue to ensure all Americans are protected against discrimination and are treated equally under the law.
“We still see inequality in access to fair and affordable housing. There are still too many parents who drop their kids off at school in the morning, not knowing where they’ll be able to find a safe place for them to sleep that night. We need to make greater investments in affordable housing so more families know the security and peace of mind of having a roof over their heads.
“And we see inequality in our education system. Being here at the University of Washington today, I want to take some time to talk more about this critical civil rights issue. We know from experience that if we don’t hold our schools and states accountable for the education of all students, the impact will be felt most by kids from poor neighborhoods, children of color, students with disabilities, all of whom want nothing more than an opportunity to work hard, and to succeed.
“These are the students who, too often, fall through the cracks. In this country, every student should have access to a quality public education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.
“In the 1800s, Horace Mann, who’s often called the Father of American Education, worked to make it universal and free for all. He famously said, ‘Education is the great equalizer.’ And I agree, but only if we continue to commit the resources and the energy to expand educational opportunities for all students.
“Over the next several weeks and months, as the Senate considers how to best rewrite the nation’s education law, I’m going to be working hard to make sure we have the kind of schools worthy of our nation’s children and their future.
“Fifty years ago, when Dr. King and demonstrators reached Montgomery in their march for voting rights, Dr. King addressed the crowd. He said the Civil Rights Act from a year earlier had given African Americans part of their rightful dignity, but ‘without the vote, it was dignity without strength.’ But because of the strength of their efforts, by August of that same year, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
“Today, we need to continue to bring strength to our nation’s values of justice and equality – from Congress to right here in Tacoma. As we celebrate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and as we remember the struggle to make it a reality, let’s go one step further. Because it also would be a missed opportunity to have just listened to the words of inspiration we’ve heard here today from all of these speakers, without using them to propel the enduring struggle to end inequality in all corners of our country.
“As we go out in our daily lives today, let’s bring strength to those who are under-represented, those who still face inequality, and those who are struggling, so equality and justice can march on. Thank you.”