Weekly Column By U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander - Civil Rights

For the week of March 1, 2004

Posted on April 18, 2005

Recently, I traveled across our great state visiting with citizens, local officials and attending events that mark the continued growth and success of our communities. I also shared with Tennesseans in honoring those who have helped shape our country's democracy and those who have fought to protect it. In Nashville, I joined Sen. Frist for a congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to pay tribute to those who have profoundly changed our nation's history in its struggle to achieve equality. We attended a morning service at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill where young men and women were trained to nonviolently challenge segregation at the city's lunch counters and throughout the South. At a dedication ceremony for the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a sit-in leader during the Civil Rights movement, was brought to tears upon seeing the exhibit for the first time. It was emotional, and there we saw reflections of the courage and hope that carried the Civil Rights movement on and pushed it forward. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to end racial segregation in public schools. Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the court's decision and claimed that "in the eyes of the law, justice is color-blind." Throughout American history, brave men and women have challenged democracy in order to change it for the better. Others have answered the call to defend it. Once again, the soldiers of the 101st Airborne have answered this call of duty, and met these challenges head on. I was honored to be at Fort Campbell to welcome home Gen. David H. Patraeus and returning members of the Screaming Eagles and to thank them on behalf of Tennesseans and all Americans for answering the call to serve and for their selfless sacrifice. To 1.7 million Iraqis living in Mosul, the 101st Airborne has been the face of American freedom and compassion. Tasked with the reconstruction of Mosul and surrounding communities, the Screaming Eagles have helped to rebuild roads, schools, government buildings, power plants, water plants and sewage systems. Not to mention assisting the introduction of local government and the training of new police and security forces. Since Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced, more than 460 soldiers from the 101st Airborne have been wounded. As of January, Fort Campbell had suffered more deaths in Iraq than any other U.S. military base. More than 50 soldiers from 101st Airborne made the ultimate sacrifice. I want to extend my gratitude and sympathy to the families of those valiant soldiers. Their loved ones have served our country in the finest and most honorable way. In his second Inaugural address a little more than a month before the Civil War ended, President Lincoln said, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." These moments in our country's history call to mind the principles that unite us as Americans. I believe the examples of those who stood up for Civil Rights to unite our country and of the 101st in Afghanistan and Iraq to defend it, illustrate our nation's pledge "&one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."