As the Senior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren has some mighty big shoes to fill, but all indications are her legacy will be worthy of succeeding to Ted Kennedy’s seat. She spoke at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and recalled Ted’s first speech on the Senate floor, just four short months after the assassination of his brother, Jack.
The topic fifty years ago is the conversation we’re still having: how can we assure that every American is afforded their Civil Rights? Ted recalled what the movement meant to the late President John F. Kennedy, saying
His heart and soul are in this (Civil Rights) bill. If his life and death had a meaning, it was that we should not hate but love one another; we should use our powers not to create conditions of oppression that lead to violence, but conditions of freedom that lead to peace.
Those words laid the framework for Senator Warren’s remarks at the Kennedy Institute. She noted when the Civil Rights Act was passed, “entrenched, racist power did everything it could to sustain oppression of African-Americans, and violence was its first tool. Lynchings, terrorism, intimidation.” A case can be made that only the tactics, not the attitudes, have changed.
“I speak today with the full knowledge that I have not personally experienced and can never truly understand the fear, the oppression, and the pain that confronts African Americans every day. But none of us can ignore what is happening in this country.”
“We also know – and say – the names of those whose lives have been treated with callous indifference. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. We’ve seen sickening videos of unarmed, black Americans cut down by bullets, choked to death while gasping for air – their lives ended by those who are sworn to protect them. Peaceful, unarmed protestors have been beaten. Journalists have been jailed. And, in some cities, white vigilantes with weapons freely walk the streets.”
Senator Warren is respected and loved because she uses her position of power to give voice to the voiceless, and is a champion for many who might otherwise lose hope. But she also understands she cannot do this by herself.
“Listen to the brave, powerful voices of today’s new generation of civil rights leaders. Incredible voices. Listen to them say: “If I die in police custody, know that I did not commit suicide.” Watch them march through the streets — not to incite a riot, but to fight for their lives.”
More than fifty years removed from passage of the Civil Rights Act, “It comes to us to once again affirm that black lives matter, that black citizens matter, that black families matter.” Watch her powerful speech here: