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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 15, 1999
                          GOLD MEDAL CEREMONY
                          U.S. Capitol Rotunda
                             June 15, 1999

Today, President Clinton will honor civil rights luminary Rosa Parks at the Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony. On May 4, 1999, the President signed into law, S. 531, a bill to authorize the Medal to Mrs. Parks. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) in the Senate and Representative Julia Carson (D-Ind.) in the House, passed overwhelmingly in both Houses with wide, bipartisan support.

Rosa Parks is honored as the "First Lady of civil rights" and the "Mother of the Freedom Movement", and her quiet dignity ignited one of the most significant social movements in the history of the United States. Mrs. Parks was arrested on December 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, and her stand for equal rights became legendary. News of Mrs. Parks' arrest resulted in 42,000 African Americans boycotting Montgomery buses for 381 days, beginning on December 5, 1955, until the bus segregation laws were changed on December 21, 1956.

Mrs. Parks is the recipient of many awards and accolades for her efforts on behalf of racial harmony including: in 1996, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civilian honor; the Springarn Award, the NAACP's highest honor for civil rights contributions; and the first International Freedom Conductor Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Mrs. Parks was the first woman to join the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and was an active volunteer for the Montgomery Voters League. In 1987, she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in Detroit, Mich., where she currently resides.

The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is the highest honor that the United States Government can bestow on an individual. The Medal was first awarded to George Washington. His medal, awarded by the Act of March 25, 1776, was the first of its kind to be bestowed.

During the Clinton administration eight people have received this award: Rabbi Menachem Schneerson in 1994, Rev. Billy and Ruth Graham in 1996, Frank Sinatra in 1997, Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1997, Bartholomew I in 1997, President Nelson Mandela in 1998, and this year Mrs. Rosa Parks.

The audience of approximately 650 people will include the following Administration officials: Secretary of Education Richard Riley; Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater; Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman; Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Togo West, Jr.; Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder; Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee; and Small Business Administration Administrator Aida Alvarez.

In addition to those participating in the program, approximately 140 members of Congress will attend including the Michigan delegation, members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Several elected officials, including Mayor Dennis Archer (Detroit); Mayor Clarence Anthony (South Bay, Fla.), President, NLC; Mayor Jesse Norward, President, National Conference of Black Mayors, and County Executive Wayne Curry (Prince George's County, MD), will also attend.

Many members of the Civil Rights community will attend the ceremony including: Members of the Little Rock Nine -- Minnie Jean Brown Trickey and Jefferson Thomas, along with his wife, Mary Harper Thomas and his granddaughter, Amber Montgomery; Dorothy Height, Chairmwoman, National Council of Negro Women; Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund; General Colin Powell, Chairman, America's Promise: Alliance for Youth; Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP; Myrlie Evers-Williams, former Chairwoman, NAACP; Elaine R. Jones, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; C. Delores Tucker, National Political Caucus of Black Women; Dick Gregory, Civil Rights Activist; and Andrew Young (former US Ambassador to the UN and former mayor of Atlanta).

Prelude: Howard Unversity Choir.
Call to Order: Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Presentation of Colors: Capitol Police Ceremonial Unit. The National Anthem is played.
Invocation: Dr. James David Ford, Chaplain of the House. The Colors are retired.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.D.) reads the resolution. Opera Singer Jessye Norman performs "Lift Every Voice" with the Howard University Choir.
Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) gives welcome and introduction. Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.) gives remarks on the Resolution. Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) makes remarks. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) makes remarks. Sen. Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) makes remarks. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) makes remarks. Speaker Hastert introduces President Clinton. President Clinton makes remarks.
Presentation of the Resolution: President Clinton , Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.), Senator.Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.). An artistic rendering of the medal is unveiled (the actual medal is not ready) by local Washington D.C. students. Mrs. Rosa Parks makes remarks.
Rev. Jesse Jackson offers a prayer.
Benediction: Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, Chaplain of the Senate.