TRANSCRIPT: Majority Leader Schumer Remarks At Press Conference On Passage Of Juneteenth Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today delivered remarks at a press conference on the Senate passage of Juneteenth legislation yesterday. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here: link to site

It is a beautiful, beautiful late spring day, and it’s as if the heavens are celebrating a recognition of freedom. Now let me just say, I want to thank Senator Markey for his great leadership on this issue, joined by our colleague on our side of the aisle, Senator Smith. Senator Cornyn, thank you for your leadership. And in the House, Representatives Jackson Lee, Danny Davis, and so many others, and Steve Williams, who has been so fabulous and relentless, in making sure that this happens.

Yesterday the Senate came together. We passed unanimously—unanimously—the bill that says Juneteenth is a federal holiday. It was an important moment for recognizing our history, not shrinking from it, not sweeping it under the rug, not denying it, but staring at it directly in the face.
If signed into law, the bill would finally, finally give due recognition to one of the most underappreciated events in our nation’s history. The day that Union generals arrived in Galveston and informed enslaved African Americans that the war was over, and that they were finally, finally free.
Two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Juneteenth unquestionably deserves a place among our nation’s most important celebrations, but it will be a day of remembrance as well as a day of celebration. Like Martin Luther King Day, it will be a day for Americans to reflect on the great unfinished business of our society — the long march to achieve full justice for all our citizens.

When I was in the House, I worked hard to make MLK Day a national holiday, and this is a fitting other end of the book in a certain sense, now that Juneteenth is finally being recognized. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, we are recognizing the sins of the past, grappling with them, teaching them, and learning from them as we work towards a more perfect union. It’ll be the only federal holiday that recognizes the terrible legacy of slavery as well as the noble truth that none of us are free until we are all free.

So thank you to my colleagues here and those who couldn’t be. I want to mention Senator Booker, he couldn’t be here because of a family situation and illness in his family, as well as the volunteers, and activists, and caretakers of our nation’s history who pushed this long overdue recognition, that this legislation is attributed to your efforts. I greatly look forward to seeing the House pass the bill later today, and sending it to the President’s desk by the end of the week.