Civil rights leaders who marched from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery in 1965 received the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, the highest civilian honor awarded by the US Congress. The honor was accepted by Reverend Frederick D Reese, one of the march’s organizers. It was a triumphant, if frustrated, ceremony, as some of the same congressional leaders who awarded the medal had also failed to pass a renewed voting rights act, after the US supreme court’s recent dismantling of key legislation from 1965. “I am certainly honored to be able to stand here and look into such beautiful faces and recall how good God has been, because he is a good God,” said Reese, when he took the podium. “He brought us from nowhere to somewhere, allowed us to receive the great blessing that this great nation has to offer, and to stand here today to say, ‘Thank you!’” But not at everyone was jubilant. The award was prefaced with a press conference, which called for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
“The Congress that wants to honor us won’t get its act together to restore what we’ve lost, what we worked so hard for,” said Reverend CT Vivian, who also marched in 1965, in a statement released by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“We won’t allow our legacy to be neutered and relegated to the museums. A medal will not mollify us. The way to truly honor our sacrifice is to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”