On Thursday, President Joe Biden sent a special greeting to a key figure in the fight to make Juneteenth, a commemoration of the abolition of slavery, a national holiday – a goal that was achieved on Thursday.
At the presidential signing ceremony, Biden dropped down on one knee to embrace Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Juneteenth supporter and retired educator from Texas, as Vice President Kamala Harris introduced her.
Growing up in Marshall and Fort Worth, Lee celebrated Juneteenth every year. On Juneteenth in 1939, when she was 12, a white mob raided and burned her family’s home. In 2016, Lee walked 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, DC, in an effort to raise awareness and support for making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
During his speech before the signing, Biden asked the audience to give Lee, who was seated in the front row, a standing ovation.
“We’re blessed to mark the day in the presence of Ms. Opal Lee – as my mother would say, God, love her,” Biden said. “Over the course of decades, she’s made it her mission to see that this day came.”
The president joked that Lee was just 49 years old.
“You are an incredible woman,” he added.