NAACP President Honored with ACLU-NCA Henry W. Edgerton Award for Civil Liberties Work

On April 11 NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous was honored with the ACLU National Capital Chapter Henry W. Edgerton Award for his civil liberties work, specifically in the area of marriage equality. Below are his prepared remarks, which he delivered at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Benjamin Jealous Prepared Remarks: Henry W. Edgerton Award Ceremony

I am humbled to receive the Henry Edgerton Award and to join such a distinguished list of past honorees.

I am deeply honored to be recognized by the ACLU, an organization with deep ties to the NAACP --- and to my life’s work.

I have to give thanks to a group of board members, allies, donors, staff and volunteers as diverse and impressive as any organization in this country. I’m honored to be joined by some of them tonight.

I’d like to ask everyone at my table –-- and NAACP members across the room ---  to stand up.

Thank you for your work.

On a personal level, I’d like to thank my wife, who is sitting right there, and inspires me every day.

It’s been quite a year!

In the past few 12 months we have time and time again proven wrong the people who doubted us.

They said we lacked enthusiasm. That in 2012 we could never exceed the record-setting GOTV effort from 2008.

Not only did we exceed it, but we doubled it --– the NAACP registered TWICE as many people in 2012 as it did in 2008, and we turned out 1.2 million voters to the polls!!!

They said we wouldn’t outflank attack after attack on the fundamental right to vote.

But we struck down voter suppression laws in 15 states, and even got a Republican governor in Michigan to veto a voter ID law!!

They said we would never repeal the death penalty in a state below the Mason Dixon Line.

But last month we repealed it in Maryland! That makes Maryland the sixth state in six years --- and it’s a trend that we intend to continue!!

They also said that we would never pass marriage equality below the Mason-Dixon Line. But last November the people of Maryland voted for equality along with the good people of Maine, Washington, and Minnesota!

And we are confident that the Supreme Court will soon see the direction that this country is headed and enshrine marriage as a constitutional right for all!

If I sound emboldened tonight, it’s because I am.

It is because the valiant and courageous volunteers in the NAACP give me reason to feel hopeful every day.

And when I look at what we achieved in the past 12 months alone, I only see reason for us to be more hopeful that the 21st century will be the greatest yet in the struggle for human rights and human dignity.

Every day my daughter Morgan and her classmates start the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

The most important paragraph is One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.

It is the simplest, most succinct statement of the social contract that binds us as a nation.

But while many adults see the pledge as an aspiration...

Our children see it as the situation they were born into...
and the promise that we have already made to them.

It’s where they think they live –

One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.

And if we have a duty as citizens, as patriots, as parents –

It is to ensure that that social contract is enforced.

That our country will finally and forever be...

One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.