Obama opens historic African American museum
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama officially opened the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC before a audience of former presidents and stars including Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith.
“Today, as so many generations have before, we gather on our National Mall to tell an essential part of our American story — one that has at times been overlooked — we come not just for today, but for all time,” said Obama.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony on the National Mall, Obama said the museum will give people a better understanding of themselves by teaching them about others.
“As Americans, we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country; who led armies into battle and waged seminal debates in the halls of Congress and the corridors of power,” said Obama. “But too often, we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others.”
“By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together. It reaffirms that all of us are America — that African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story, it’s not the underside of the American story, it is central to the American story,” said Obama.
“That our glory derives not just from our most obvious triumphs, but how we’ve wrested triumph from tragedy, and how we’ve been able to remake ourselves, again and again and again, in accordance with our highest ideals.”
An emotional Obama even wiped a tear from his cheek when he about someday “holding a little hand” and bringing his grandchild to tour the museum.
Former President George W. Bush, also took to the stage, thanking his wife, Laura Bush, who sits on the board of the museum. “My first reaction is I hope all of our citizens come and look at this place. It is fabulous,” said Bush.
“The story of the African American journey in their own words,” said media mogul Oprah Winfrey who quoted famed poet Maya Angelou. “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.”
“Did you just challenge me to a poetry battle?” laughed Will Smith then quoted Langston Hughes’ poem ‘Harlem’.
“Muhammad Ali came off the ropes in the 8th round in Zaire. He shook the world by speaking truth to power,” said Robert De Niro.
The ceremony ended with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama standing along with the Bonner family, who included 99-year-old Ruth Bonner, the daughter of a slave. The group rang an historic bell from the First Baptist Church in Virginia — one of the oldest black churches in America, founded under a grove of trees in 1776.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is the 19th and the newest of the Smithsonian museum. It was designed by architect David Adjaye. -Reuters