But make no mistake: Citizenship was not a gift that was given to black Americans. It was a right that was won through the courage and sacrifice of many impatient patriots, weary of hypocrisy, whose demand was "freedom now."
These impatient patriots were iconic leaders like my father's great friend, Fred Shuttlesworth and Bob Moses and, of course, Martin Luther King. There were people like Rosa Parks. There were people, white and black, who just saw that America had to end its own hypocrisy. And they were ordinary citizens who boycotted segregated buses and demanded equality at lunch counters and marched for their civil rights. They knew, too, that the fight against segregation had to be not just in one's heart but in one's own mind. And so the black citizens of America are free today because there are also individuals, like my father and my mother who were teachers, I would call them educational evangelists, who didn't just care for their children and educated them, but taught them that if they worked hard and learned, they could be liberated also by their minds.
Across the empire of Jim Crow, from upper Dixie to the lower Delta, the descendants of slaves shamed our nation with the power of righteousness and redeemed America at last from its original sin of slavery.
By resolving the contradiction at the heart of our democracy, America finally found its voice as a true champion of democracy beyond its shores. ...
It is the case that America and the world have been secure when democracy is on the march; and vulnerable when democracy is in retreat. Now, of course, we hear the same cynical voices again that argued about Latin America and about Asia, about the former Soviet Union and, indeed, about minorities in our own country. They argue that the people of the Middle East, perhaps because of their color or their creed or their culture or even perhaps because of their religion, are somehow incapable of democracy.
They falsely characterize the support of democracy as "exporting" democracy, as if democracy were a product that only America manufactures. These cynics say that we are arrogantly imposing our democratic principles on unwilling peoples. But it is the very height of arrogance to believe that political liberty, and rights for women, and freedom of speech, and the rule of law belong only to us. All people deserve these rights and they choose them freely. It is tyranny, not democracy that has to be forced upon people at gunpoint.
So today, impatient patriots are raising their voices for justice across the Middle East. ...
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recalled the meeting at the end of 1862, during the American Civil War, when the working people of Manchester, England - whose livelihoods depended on the cotton trade - stood in solidarity with the enslaved Americans and the Union Army. Straw also expounded on an earlier comment by Rice: "When the Founding Fathers said, 'We the people', they didn't mean, me." The British Foreign Secretary noted that "The deep beliefs on which [Rice's] approach and especially her foreign policy is founded, everyone has the right to freedom and democracy, has a great human yearning for progress and that's one of the most powerful forces in the world." Read the full text at the link. (US Department of State, Virtual Manchester)