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Thank you, Lew, Council Member Sims, Gladys Devane (Rosa), Liz Mitchell, everyone who helped put this event together and everyone braving a cold February day to be here.

We’re here today honoring the heroic act of one woman standing up to decades of institutionalized discrimination and systematic abuse by refusing to give up a seat on a bus.  

What kind of a person has the nerve to do such a thing?  What makes an activist? Are they outspoken? Are they tough? Smart? Well educated?  A lone wolf?

Rosa Parks was none of those things, but who among us would argue that she wasn’t a hero?

We think of Rosa Parks as tough and steely, but she said that the reason she was the volunteer secretary for her local chapter of the NAACP was that, “she was too timid to say no.”  

Her refusal to give up her seat in the black section of the bus to a white man was calculated, but it wasn’t planned for that time.  Parks said of that bus, “I got on it to go home.” Parks herself decided on that day, at that moment, that enough was enough and she made her stand.

While she was known to be well spoken, intelligent and thoughtful, she didn’t finish her high school degree until she was married and 20 years old.  It was difficult to impossible for African Americans in the US South to continue their educations beyond the most basic until after the successes of the civil rights movement.

Parks wasn’t alone in her belief that discrimination had to end. She had been an active member of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations in the Montgomery area for years before the plan and her courage galvanized to spark a movement that would eventually last 381 days, involve 40,000 bus riders, and lead to success in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The path to being an activist is not on any road map, and although Rosa Parks took a bus there, most of us, should we choose the opportunity, will most likely get there because like Rosa Parks, we decide that enough is enough.  Through Parks’ life and actions we learn that we don’t have to be a great orator, well educated or even self confident to be the one blazing the trail, or in this case the bus route, for the nation to follow.Thank you for joining us today.

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