The First Lady and I send our warmest greetings to those celebrating Juneteenth this year.
On this day 155 years ago, African Americans in Texas first heard the righteous and long-overdue words of General Order Number 3: “All slaves are free.” These words confirmed for still-enslaved people in Texas that the Union Army would enforce and defend their freedom, announced nearly 3 years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth reminds us of both the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation. It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness. That ability is rooted in the fundamental goodness of America—in the truths upon which we, as a Nation, declared an end to our status as the subjects of a monarch and emerged as a free and independent people: that all men are created equal by the hand of God, endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These words form the heart of what Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called the “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” The celebration of Juneteenth marks an important milestone in the hard-fought journey to make good on that promise for all Americans.
This Juneteenth, we commit, as one Nation, to live true to our highest ideals and to build always toward a freer, stronger country that values the dignity and boundless potential of all Americans.