Few dreams are realized in Washington D.C. This week is different.
Civil Rights leader John Lewis was a Freedom Rider, he marched at Selma, and was an architect and speaker for Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington in 1963. Now a congressman, he has long dreamed of a Smithsonian museum commemorating the struggles and triumphs of African Americans. This weekend, that dream comes true.
I joined efforts with Congressman Lewis, sponsoring and carrying the museum legislation during my time in the Senate. With concerns about racial equality again in the national spotlight, I can think of no better time for the opening of this newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Our nation was founded on the principles of liberty for all and equality before the law. But the horrors of slavery remind us of our country’s original sin and the inescapable reality that our nation has, at times, fallen painfully short of these ideals. A civil war, born on the plains of Kansas, was fought to purge the nation of slavery. While many significant strides toward equality have been made throughout the following decades, discrimination and prejudice still exist.
Meeting with friends and colleagues, together we discussed the continued need for reconciliation in America—the need to remember wrongs committed so they may never again be repeated. To me, that is the purpose of this museum. I hope it can serve as a touchstone of remembrance for the hardship and the heroes, of where we’ve been and where we hope to go. I hope it serves as the beginning of a conversation about the reconciliation we need as a country, and that it will be known as a Museum of Reconciliation.
Our Founding Fathers entrusted us with the name United States of America. Today, in the midst of a difficult national conversation about race, we must not become divided. Instead, we must embrace the principles of both unity and equality, working to make this dream a reality.
Governor Sam Brownback