President Joe Biden has signed a bill into law creating Juneteenth – the nation’s oldest annual commemoration of slavery’s end – as a national holiday.
Following the proposal’s swift passage in Congress, from a unanimous vote in the Senate on Tuesday and debate and passage with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the president signed the measure into law on Thursday, two days before 2021’s Juneteenth celebrations.
In remarks from the White House before a bill signing, the president said Juneteenth “will join the others of our national celebrations” for “our independence, our laborers who built this nation, our service members” but underscored the nation’s urgent and ongoing duty to live up to the promise of equality.
He pointed to his administration efforts to combat and prosecute discrimination, promote equity in healthcare and education, and protect voting rights against “an assault that offends our very democracy” from partisan legislation undermining ballot access across the US.
“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” he said, echoing his remarks from the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. They come to terms with mistakes we’ve made, and remembering those moments, we begin to heal.”
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