"This national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are," Obama said at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "It helps us better understand the lives, yes, of the president but also the slave, the industrialist but also the porter, the keeper of the status quo but also the activist seeking to overthrow that status quo."
The president visibly shed several tears as he told about his rides on Marine One over the National Mall watching the museum get built and thinking that one day he would visit it with his grandchildren during which he’d “hold a little hand” and “tell them the stories that are enshrined here.”
“We’ll learn about ourselves as Americans,” Obama said of the museum. “We’ll walk away that much more in love with this country. The only place on earth where this story could have unfolded.”
Obama said the history displayed in the museum is “a story that perhaps needs to be told now more than ever.”
“What this museum does show us is that even in the face of oppression, even in the face of unimaginable difficulty, America has moved forward,” the president said. “It is in this embrace of truth as best as we can know it and the celebration of the entire American experience where real patriotism lies.”
After his speech, Obama rang in the opening by clanging a 500-pound bell from the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, which was founded by slaves and free blacks in 1776.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama sat on the stage alongside former first lady Laura Bush and President George W. Bush, who in 2003 signed into law a bill to move forward with the building of the museum.
Also in attendance at the star-studded ceremony were former Pres. Bill Clinton, Chief Justice John Roberts, Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Vice President Biden, House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“What I think you want is for this generation of kids to come away thinking, ‘Yeah, everybody can do everything,’ that if you're a little white boy or a little white girl, little black boy, little black girl, a Latino, Asian, if you grow up and you are gay or straight, if you are disabled, that you're empowered,” he said.