Governor Bentley’s Remarks at the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March


Good afternoon!

It is a personal honor it is for me to join in today’s historic occasion on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that has become a monument in itself to the struggle for civil rights 50 years ago.

This bridge represents the strength, determination, the loss and pain that have come to define the civil rights movement in Alabama.

Today, we are surrounded by the living examples of those who fought for equality, and won, and who have now dedicated their lives to the cause of justice.

It’s an honor to stand here among you. On behalf of the State of Alabama, thank you for allowing me to participate in this momentous occasion.

Fifty years ago, approximately 600 people marched across this very bridge on their way to Montgomery to demand the right to vote.

Those marchers were led by one man with a mighty bold vision to change the culture of America—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Selma stood poised on the center stage as a series of historical events unfolded around us as the fight for civil rights met one of its hardest struggles right here on this bridge.

Bloody Sunday was a difficult day in our nation’s history as the route to Montgomery was met with violence. We’ve all seen the images and heard the stories of those men and women who desired the right to vote.

This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. In 1965, the rights of man were threatened because every man did not have the right to vote.

And we as a state and a nation are forever changed for having learned the lessons the bold leaders of 1965 taught us.

Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and my good friend Representative John Lewis who showed leadership in the face of uncertainty and shared their vision with those who wanted a better and more equal nation.

We need more men like them, who are not afraid to stand up and work for what they believe in.

Alabama is a different state today than it was in 1965, and so is our nation. We’ve come a long way since the events of that Bloody Sunday.

President Obama, you would not have been welcomed in Alabama in 1965, but thanks to the bold vision and the courage of those leaders 50 years ago, I am honored to share the stage with you and welcome you and your family to Selma today.

Today we choose to honor the memory, the work and the sacrifice of those who saw a better vision for our state and country. It is extremely important for younger generations to know about the sacrifices that were made on this bridge and in the entire civil rights movement.

We choose to look beyond those ugly scars and focus on what Alabama really is, and what it can be.

Alabama is MY Sweet Home. I was raised here, and I have a great love and respect for the people who call Alabama home.

Alabama is a place where economic opportunity abounds and there are good-paying jobs for our people, and where children can get a good education no matter of their race or wealth.

Alabama is a place where neighbors love and care for one another and work together on issues that are important to us all.

So while we look back on a difficult chapter in Alabama’s history, it’s important that we write a new chapter together where opportunities exist for everyone – regardless of race or religion or politics.

As we reflect on the past 50 years, I think it is important to ask. “What will Alabama look like – what will our nation look like 50 years forward?”

That’s up to our people and the leaders who have bold vision to make America and Alabama better and stronger than it was in 1965.

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 29:18 which says, “Without Vision, the people perish.”

As leaders, may we never lose vision or the boldness to do great things no matter how hard the struggle is.

Fifty years ago, the eyes of the world were on Alabama. Today, I invite you to look to Alabama again.  Our state is a place we can all call Sweet Home Alabama.

May God Bless this great nation and the State of Alabama now and forever.