First Lady Michelle made a stop to the historic home that slaves built, worked and lived in to deliver an endowment to the preservation of the historic landmark.
|First Lady Michelle Obama speaks with children during a Decatur House visit.|
The endowment was a gift from American Express, presented by the company's African American CEO, Kenneth Chenault.
The Decatur House is now a National Trust for Historic Preservation Site and home to the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History. The restoration project was made possible by a contribution to the White House Historical Association by American Express.
During her visit the First Lady made by a brief tour of the house accompanied by schoolchildren from Willow Springs Elementary School in Fairfax, VA.
Below are comments from the First Lady during her visit.
"For nearly 200 years, as our country has grown and evolved, the Decatur House has grown and evolved right along with it. This house has hosted parties and social events with some of our nation’s foremost leaders. It’s been a residence for secretaries of state, and at one time, it served as headquarters for the Army Subsistence Department of the Civil War.
But from the back of the house, from a structure far less lavish, comes even more history -- the kinds of stories that too often get lost, the kinds of stories that are a part of so many of our families’ histories, including my own. I’m talking about the slaves here at Decatur House who spent their lives within shouting distance of one of the most powerful buildings on the planet -- a bastion of freedom and justice for all.
Yet, within this very place, about 20 men and women spent their days serving those who came and went from this house and their nights jammed together on the second floor of the slave quarters, all the while holding onto a quiet hope, a quiet prayer that they, too, and perhaps their children, would someday be free. These stories of toil, and sweat, and quiet, unrelenting dignity -- these stories are as vital to our national memory as any other. And so it is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that these stories are told.
So more than anything, today, I simply want to say thank you. Thank you for coming together to preserve these stories for years to come. Thank you to everyone from American Express for making such a generous commitment to honor all of our nation’s history. Of course, thank you to the White House Historical Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for finding new ways to engage with our past.
And finally, I want to thank all of you for all of the educational opportunities you’re giving to our young people. I’m about to go on a wonderful tour with some students from Willow Springs Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia. And what’s most exciting is that they’re not just going to look at some pictures on a wall, they’re going to take part in the re-enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. I'm not sure what I'm going to do while they do it. (Laughter.) I'm going to look on.
So truly, it is this type of engagement that you all are providing for young people that will continue to draw them into these spaces and give them an opportunity to really grow and understand, and understand the stories that create this country and their place in that history.
So you all aren’t just teaching our young people about history, you’re inspiring them to believe that they can make history as well. And that’s really what history is for -- it's for the next generation, it's for us to continue to learn and grow. So these spaces are critical. The work that you all are doing is vital. They would not exist without the work that you do, and we couldn’t be more grateful."
In other historic news making events from the White House, President Obama will sign a bill today designating the Congressional Gold Medal to commemorate the lives of the four little girls who were killed in Birmingham, Alabama at the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963.
R. 360 passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on April 24. Congresswoman Sewell and Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus introduced the bill along with the entire Alabama delegation and Alabama natives Representative John Lewis and Representative Sanford Bishop.
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved H.R. 360 on May 9. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby garnered co-sponsorship from over two-thirds of the Senate and introduced the Senate version of the bill along with Senator Jeff Sessions.
In 1997, film director, Spike Lee bought to life the history of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church that killed the young girls, with his epic documentary, Four Little Girls.