Washington Stops to Honor Freedom from Slavery

President Obama and Members of Congress paused this week to honor the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. 

In a ceremony on Capitol Hill, President Obama remarked, “At its heart, the question of slavery…. was about the meaning of America, the kind of country we wanted to be – whether this nation might fulfill the call of its birth.”  Citing the Declaration of Independence, President Obama continued, “President Lincoln understood that if we were ever to fully realize that founding promise, it meant not just signing an Emancipation Proclamation, not just winning a war.  It meant making the most powerful collective statement we can in our democracy:  etching our values into our Constitution.”

Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) declared:

We should be honest with ourselves. It took centuries of cruelty and injustice. But today we celebrate the moment when our country decided: Yes, they should be free. They would be free. And we thought this decision was so important that for the first time in half a century, we amended the Constitution. From then on, it would be the supreme law of the land.  And so today we celebrate this 43-word amendment, this “new birth of freedom.”

Historical information about the Thirteenth Amendment is available from the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: December 11, 2015

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