21st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast: As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon Executive Dining Room, Washington, D. C, Thursday, January 12, 2006
Rumsfeld, Donald H., U.S. Department of Defense Speeches
Thank you. It is a pleasure to join you today.
A great deal can happen in any calendar year, but it is important to note one event that occurred in this past year.
This is our first Martin Luther King breakfast since the death of Rosa Parks. It is appropriate to me to take a moment to reflect on the tremendous impact she had on our country.
Tens of thousands of mourners gathered to pay tribute to her at memorial services across the country--in Michigan, here in Washington, in the south. Some of the mourners had famous names, but most were ordinary citizens--people from different backgrounds, different races, and cultures.
Rosa Parks was the first woman and only the 31st to lie in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol. It says something special--and I think hopeful--about our nation that resting in the same place as had Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan was the modest, but marvelous seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama--surrounded by the symbols of our great democracy and the tears and prayers of a grateful nation.
For a moment, that scene offered all who saw it, in person or on television, a glimpse of the "dream" that Martin Luther King, Jr. suffered and died for--and the "dream" we are still struggling to make a reality for every American.
Recently, I was told something about our country that you might find interesting. It seems the United States is probably home to more monuments to foreign liberators than any other country in the world. Down the road from where we are today are statues of India's Mahatma Gandhi, along with fathers of Czech and Ukrainian independence. In New York are monuments to Italian revolutionaries and a series of Latin American liberators.
Each of them, like Dr. Martin Luther King, saw their nation not as it had been or was, but as a vision of what it could be, and what it should be. Each believed freedom to be, in Dr. King's words, not only "the sacred heritage of our nation" but "the eternal will of God."
All of us who had the honor of meeting him, as I did in the 1960's, as I did as a young Congressmen, while working on civil rights legislation, were forever affected by the gentle power of his vision, commitment, and his courage and certainly his perseverance. …