It was exactly 150 years ago this week that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, officially abolishing slavery. President Obama attended a Capitol Hill ceremony today to honor the anniversary, and offered some timely and poignant remarks.
…Obama said, “We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms.” Obama called on Americans to “hold fast to our values” and advance the work done by abolitionists and civil rights leaders.“All it requires is that our generation be willing to do what those who came before us have done: to rise above the cynicism and rise above the fear. To hold fast to our values. To see ourselves in each other. To cherish dignity and opportunity, not just for our own children but for somebody else’s child,” Obama said. “To remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others, regardless of what they look like, or where they come from, or what their last name is, or what faith they practice.”
Note that when the president said “or what faith they practice,” he spoke with much greater emphasis, as if he were trying to send a specific message to a Republican presidential candidate and his allies.
I’ll leave it to you to guess who, though the point did not appear lost on today’s audience – much of which responded to the president’s comment with a standing ovation.
Lest anyone think this was a coincidence, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today, “I’m not going to wave you off consideration of the idea that that message stands in quite stark contrast to the rhetoric that we hear from a variety of Republican candidates for president. So I think it’s appropriate for you to notice the difference in those messages, but I would contest the notion that this is something that the president newly inserted into his remarks to respond to one individual.”
Here’s a video excerpt of Obama’s remarks. Pay particular attention to his emphasis at the 2-minute mark.