Mr. BACHUS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, this week Birmingham, Alabama, is hosting an MSNBC and Newsweek Magazine National Conference on Race Relations. One of the highlights of this conference is the Birmingham Pledge movement.
The Birmingham Pledge is a personal commitment to work to eliminate racial division in America and around the world. Those who sign the Pledge make a personal promise to treat all individuals with dignity and respect. More than 70,000 people from every inhabited continent on the globe have signed the Birmingham Pledge. Every signed Pledge is returned to Birmingham and recorded at the Civil Rights Institute as a permanent testament to racial reconciliation, peace and harmony.
Mr. Speaker, along with my colleague, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. HILLIARD), both of us being natives of Birmingham, Alabama, we introduced this resolution on June 14, 2000. This resolution has the support of 107 cosponsors, a bipartisan group of Members of the House.
The resolution recognizes that personal efforts, the efforts of individuals, do matter, and do make a difference in addressing racial intolerance and do contribute significantly in fostering racial harmony.
As we speak, MSNBC is conducting a televised live town hall meeting on race relations from the historic 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Newsweek Magazine this week printed a special issue on diversity in America to coincide with the Birmingham Summit.
The resolution before us recognizes that the Birmingham Pledge is making a significant contribution in fostering racial harmony. It commends those involved with the creation of the pledge, including Jim Rotch, who authored the pledge, and those who have signed it. It expresses the sense of Congress that a National Birmingham Pledge Week should be established.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I think it is appropriate to commend the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. HILLIARD), with whom I have worked very closely in the Congressional Black Caucus, and the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. BACHUS), with whom I have worked very closely on the House Committee on the Judiciary on a number of measures.
This is a unique, ingenious way that continues the ability of America to help recognize that racial prejudice is something that we still can deal with in many creative, small ways. So House Joint Resolution 102 recognized that this ingenious notion, the Birmingham Pledge, can make an important contribution in fostering and promoting racial equality. It is a symbol of how far we have come and how far we have to go in the struggle for civil rights equality for all Americans.
Because Birmingham, Alabama, occupies a unique and important place in the history of civil rights in America, for these two Members from the State of Alabama to come forward where we have had in the past the images of police dogs, fire hoses, racial strife, Dr. King's letter from a Birmingham jail, all makes it so important that from Alabama and now from around the Nation, signatures are pouring in. I understand that more than 60,000 have taken place already, and that President Clinton and the
First Lady have all been signatories.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think it is important as I conclude that if we pledge our belief today that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful, then we should let our actions speak louder than our words and pass a hate crimes legislation bill that has come from the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time, and I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. HILLIARD) be the manager of this bill from this point forward.
Mr. HILLIARD. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to call upon Congress to pass this resolution recognizing the Birmingham Pledge. The Birmingham Pledge is an effort of the Birmingham community to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual and to share with the world our community's commitment to eliminate racial prejudice in the lives of all people. It is a personal daily commitment to remove prejudice from our own lives as well as the lives of others and to treat all persons with respect.
The gentleman from Alabama (Mr. BACHUS) and I proposed this resolution together, bringing to this Nation the rich heritage that we represent in Birmingham, Alabama. I would say it has been in the center of the struggle for American freedom. It was here that our citizens fought nonviolently the violent, racist, hate-mongering police commissioner Eugene ``Bull'' Connor and won. The remnants of that racism has impacted our society for far too long. Now is the time to change the social condition
for all citizens and bring new life to the American dream.
It was here in Birmingham, Alabama, 16 years later that Birmingham elected its first black mayor who recently retired after 20 years of leading our city from hate, racism, poverty, and unemployment into becoming one of the leading citizens in America in human relations. Birmingham has developed and sustained an economy which includes many more people than ever before. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Nation. But it also has changed in terms of its human relations factors, and
it is a positive one. It is one that we wish to share with all Americans.
Even with our great history, people in Birmingham forget how we got where we are today; and because of that, the loss of our understanding of this exodus is destructive. We need to find out where we have been. We need to remember in order to realize where we must go.
This pledge can renew our memories and renew our commitment to a world without the kind of hate which has, for so long, ripped out the heart of our city and our Nation. I cannot tell my colleagues how strongly I recommend this resolution to all of us to sign, and I call upon all of us to support it today, by our votes; but I also ask each one of my colleagues to seek signatures from their constituents and, most importantly, to live the pledge.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.