(Seattle, WA) - Today, Senator Patty Murray joined religious and civil rights leaders at Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Seattle Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Murray's remarks follow:

Thank you, Vivian, [Vivian Phillips, emcee] and thank you Rev. Dr. Clemetson for that beautiful prayer, Pastor Braxton, and Rev. McKinney.

I want to welcome our special guests: NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Seattle Chapter President Carl Mack, and National Board member Lacey Steele.

I’m always honored to come to Mount Zion Baptist Church, and I’m especially honored to help celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Seattle NAACP. This is the right place to celebrate the NAACP because Mount Zion – like the NAACP -- has nurtured generations of leaders in our state’s political, business, and religious life.

And today is the right time to celebrate because throughout American history, this day -- November 8th -- has been a landmark day for expanding rights.

On this day in 1864, Abraham Lincoln was elected to his second term as president, a term in which he ended the civil war and brought us closer to the promises of the Declaration of Independence.

On this day in 1910 here in Washington state, women first got to vote in state elections.

On this day in 1961, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived here in Seattle for his historic visit at the invitation of Reverend McKinney.

And on this day in 2003, we are launching the next 90 years of the NAACP and its proud legacy.

A legacy that says:
  • every American deserves equal justice under law,
  • every American should be treated with dignity
  • and every American should have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

    It’s a legacy of overcoming those who say that you’re different, that you don’t belong, that you cannot succeed.

    When I decided to run for the United States Senate, people told me that I couldn’t do it. They told me I didn’t have enough experience. They told me I couldn’t raise the money. They even told me I was too short. [laughter]

    Well today, I’m the third shortest woman in the United States Senate.

    There will always be people who will say that you’re different or that you can’t succeed. The lesson of Dr. King, of Reverend McKinney, of the NAACP is to stand up and speak the truth.

    We each have the power to stand up, and you never know when you’ll be called on.

    I found that out myself in my second year in the United States Senate. On July 20th, 1995, I was managing the Legislative Branch bill. It’s a simple bill that funds the Congress, but sometimes Senators try to attach amendments to it.

    I was hoping for a few short speeches, and then a quick vote. But then we heard that Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas was going to offer an amendment to kill affirmative action in all contracts of the federal government.

    Everyone in the Senate was worried about this debate. President Clinton had spoken about it the day before. Senator Gramm was known as an aggressive and tough debater.

    I remember he got on the Senate floor and started ranting about “quotas” and “set-asides” and “reverse discrimination.” He finished talking and sat down.

    I didn’t have a speech, but I stood up and spoke the only truth I knew.

    Here is what I said:

    Mr. President, I sit here tonight and I think about the words `affirmative action,' and I listened to the words on the floor.

    I wonder sometimes if we have all grown up in the same country - because I grew up in a country that said you have equal opportunity, an equal chance and an equal ability in this life to get a good education, to get a good job and make it in this country.

    Mr. President, that is what the affirmative action program means to this Senator from the State of Washington who stands here tonight on the floor of the Senate as one of eight women in this body.

    Now friends, I know I wasn’t as eloquent as a Mount Zion pastor, but I spoke from the heart. Pretty soon other Senators got up and spoke their truth, and in the end, we beat that hateful amendment.

    Today Phil Gramm is no longer in the Senate, but the challenges keep coming, and we’ve got to be ready to answer the call.

    You can bet that when someone threatens equality, I’m going to be on the Senate floor pushing back.

    When they try to give a lifetime appointment to a judge who has a horrible civil rights record, you bet I’m down on that Senate floor pushing back.

    When they threaten our schools, our hospitals and the institutions that give us opportunity, I’m the first in line fighting back.

    Friends, this 90-year anniversary is not the end of our battles – there will be more to come.

    But thanks to the NAACP -- and the leaders in this room – we know that when we are called to stand up for equality, we’ll be ready.

    When we are called to stand up for dignity, we will stand up together.

    When we are called to stand up for justice, we will speak the truth.

    And when we are called to stand up for opportunity for all: we will stand up, we will speak out, and together, we will win.