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Retracing the Road to Voting Rights for All

June 10, 2019 12:00 PM

Retracing the Road to Voting Rights for All

It was a privilege I will never forget – the opportunity to journey through our country's heartbreaking and inspiring civil and voting rights history with 17 other secretaries of state and one lieutenant governor from across the United States. 

It was a long road to suffrage for all, and this Alabama journey through Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma laid bare the devastating reality of the suffering we inflicted on our own.  Unspeakable numbers of lives were indelibly altered, and lost, in the pursuit to secure voting rights.

Together with the chief election officials from 19 states – Republican and Democrat, urban and rural, east, west, north, and south – we shared, witnessed and absorbed these historical moments and landmarks that epitomize the struggles and achievements of the voting rights movement.

Kathy Boockvar in front of memorial.

State officials in a museum.

Together, we were united in feeling humbled and inspired by the awesome responsibility and opportunity we have been granted to make a difference in the world, and leave it a better place than when we arrived.

We had the honor to be accompanied on this journey by Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe, daughter of Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered for her participation in the movement for civil rights and equality. 

Mary's memories and insights into the decades of struggle were meaningful and profound.  And her hope and optimism and faith that much good came – and will still come – from the devastating loss of her mother, and so many others, inspired and moved us.

Beginning with Birmingham, then to Montgomery, and finishing in Selma, we sang and marched, chanted and listened, arm in arm, hand in hand.

Our group comprised seven Democrats and 12 Republicans from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington.

But none of those differences mattered.

Together, we sang This Little Light of Mine in the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, and recited from Dr. King's I have a Dream speech.  Together, we witnessed the evidence and recounting of the heartbreaking lynchings and torture of our own people. 

Together, we linked arms and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma – the site of the civil rights march credited with persuading President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Together, we chanted We Shall Overcome, and listened to the rousing messages of pastors and leaders, of those who suffered great loss.

Together, we were united in feeling humbled and inspired by the awesome responsibility and opportunity we have been granted to make a difference in the world, and leave it a better place than when we arrived. 

We were united in understanding the vital importance of remembering all who came before, and honoring their sacrifices by ensuring we are working together to make sure no eligible voter is disenfranchised.  And we were united in a deep-rooted commitment to ensure that we never let such atrocities happen on our soil again.  


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