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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

National African-American History Month Celebration, Washington,D.C.

02/05/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

at the

National African-American History Month Celebration

Washington, D.C.

February 5, 2003


Thank you Karen (Higginbotham) for that introduction.

It = s good to be with all of you today and I appreciate the opportunity to join with you in this celebration of National African American History Month.

Coming together at this time is an opportunity to celebrate the rich diversity of our nation, the type of diversity exemplified by the crew of the shuttle Columbia. Among the astronauts we lost were two women B one from India B an Israeli, and an African American.

Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson is one of a handful of African American astronauts, who have been willing to risk their lives for the advancement of science and the improvement of the lives of others. Lt. Colonel Anderson is a perfect example of the many courageous African American men and women who have made great sacrifices and even greater contributions on behalf of our country. And, it is his life and their lives that we honor during this month.

African American History Month grew out of the vision and dedication of one man B Dr. Carter Woodson. In 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African- American Life and History to bring recognition to the many contributions made by African- Americans to our nation = s history, culture, and society.

As part of that effort, he worked to establish an African-American History Week, which he succeeded in doing by 1926. He chose the second week of February because it was near the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass B two men who had done a great deal for the advancement of African American = s.

In 1976, during the celebration of America = s bicentennial, the observance of African American History week was expanded to include the whole month of February.

The theme of this year = s celebration is A The Soul of Black Folk: Centennial Reflections @ , and it is an opportunity for our nation and the world to address the continued existence of one of the most corrosive elements in any society B racism.

Nowhere is racism acceptable, especially not here in America. Because the very founding of our country was won through defiance of oppression and tyranny, we should renew our efforts as a government and as a people to defeat racism once and for all.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, A The good neighbor looks beyond external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers. @ He understood that the strength of our nation rests on our ability to overcome the barriers of race and come together in celebration of our differences.

W.E.B. Dubois, whose book the Soul of Black Folks, is the basis for this year = s theme, devoted his life to rooting out racism in our country. He believed that the race problem was one of ignorance and so he worked to combat it with knowledge.

Knowledge is a powerful weapon and one that we still have at our disposal today, a hundred years after Dubois wrote his landmark book. That is why the celebration of African American History Month is important for all Americans. Learning about the heritage and culture of African-Americans brings a greater understanding of our history and our past, which is crucial if we are to build a future of compassion, respect, and true democracy.

With that in mind, I would like to encourage all of you to take advantage of the events planned throughout the rest of this month that will recognize the sacrifices, past achievements, and ongoing contributions made by African-Americans to the building and preservation of our great country.

Thank you.