Washington, DC - Today,(Sunday)  we celebrate the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery in our country.  One hundred and fifty-five years later, we remember the millions of souls unjustly subjected to the oppressive institution of slavery and recommit to pursuing the enduring promise of our Nation that all people have the God-given right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

On December 6, 1865, Georgia became the 27th State to ratify the 13th Amendment, forever enshrining the end to slavery and all of its badges and incidents into our foundational governing document.  This landmark moment in the history of our country signaled the dawn of a new era in American society and marked the end of an evil injustice that stained our national character.  In the years since, African Americans have made monumental contributions to the culture and economy of our great Nation, fueling the success of our country and the fulfillment of its core values and promises.

The 13th Amendment denoted an end to a Nation divided between slave States and free States, a critical step toward realizing the long-known truth of the equality of all people.  Today, as we mark this milestone, we also remember the incredible sacrifices made in the years after ratification by so many patriots in pursuit of equality under the law.  We resolve to continue to work to strengthen the bonds of unity between all Americans.  In remembrance of the indomitable spirit of the men and women who toiled and died under the yoke of slavery, in honor of the soldiers who fought and died to free them, and in service to our founding ideals, we will continue to root out and destroy hate and injustice in order to more firmly secure the promise of our Nation for future generations.

The United States of America is the greatest country in the world because our history is one of constant progress toward the timeless principles of equality and justice.  As President Abraham Lincoln stated, the Founders always “meant to set up a standard maxim for a free society” for us to revere, look to, and strive for.  We are the Nation that abolished slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal, and prosperous country in human history.  Today, we recommit to building on this progress and continuing our march as one people toward a freer and brighter future for all.