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Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 1912 - 2010, RIP
Watch never-before-seen video of President Obama, First Lady Michelle and “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height, during a January intergenerational reflection on the civil rights movement at the White House. She recounts here her memories of meeting one 15 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.
Also, please check out our memorial page to Dr. Height.
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Dorothy Height Funeral: President Obama Honors ‘Godmother’ Of Civil Rights Movement
President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service of civil rights leader Dorothy Height April 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Height led the National Council of Negro Women and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)
~President Barack Obama on Thursday eulogized Dorothy Height as a history-making figure in the civil rights movement whose quiet perseverance produced gains in “a righteous cause.”
Speaking to hundreds of mourners in the stately Washington National Cathedral, Obama recounted Height’s commitment to the cause during decades of work, mostly behind the scenes while the movement’s male leaders earned more attention and fame.
“She never cared about who got the credit,” the president said. “What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”
His 13-minute tribute often drew gentle laughter as Obama remembered Height’s doggedness and energy. Height, who died last week at age 98, led the National Council of Negro Women for decades and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Height visited the Obama White House 21 times, the president said. He noted that she was determined to attend a meeting of African-American leaders on unemployment last winter even though she was in a wheelchair and a blizzard was approaching.
She wouldn’t allow “just a bunch of men” to control the meeting, Obama said. When Height’s attendance became impossible because cars could not reach her snow-choked driveway, he said, she still sent a message with her ideas.
Noting Height’s trademark attire, Obama said, “we loved those hats she wore like a crown. Regal.”
He cited her role in desegregating the YWCA and in leading the National Council of Negro Women with “vision and energy, vision and class.” He said her name should be associated with great leaders such as King and W.E.B. DuBois.
“She too deserves a place in our history books,” Obama said. “She too deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.”
He urged Americans to honor Height’s memory by serving their country and making it better. “We can all be drum majors for a righteous cause,” the president said.
Others were spoke at the service included poet and author Maya Angelou and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Opera singer Denyce Graves performed for the audience, which included First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Remembering Dr. Dorothy I. Height
Written by Valerie Jarrett
Dr. Dorothy Height with Oprah
Dr. Dorothy I. Height was grace personified. She displayed a quiet strength. She vigorously defended the Constitution and fought for equal rights, women’s rights, and human rights for citizens of our country and for people the world over.
Today we said our final goodbyes to this extraordinary woman, and the President of the United States paid tribute to her during the final service. It is more than fitting that this should be the case.
Even in what would be the final year of her life, Dr. Height pressed the National Council of Negro Women to stay in the fight for health care, to make sure that working families had the support they needed to survive during these challenging economic times, and to continue inspiring young girls and women to reach their highest aspirations. Dr. Height visited the White House 21 times since President Obama’s Inauguration. Indeed, when invited to the White House in February to meet with the President and a group of Civil Rights leaders, only the worst blizzard in Washington in 100 years could keep her away.
On another occasion, Dr. Height joined us on Martin Luther King Day when a group of African American seniors and young children met with the President and Mrs. Obama for a moment of reflection on the road traveled by African Americans in our country. She told us of the first time she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager and the promise he conveyed even then. Later the group joined the President in the Oval Office to review an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation hung that very day.
During Women’s History Month this year, President Obama recognized Dr. Height for her life’s work by including her in the proclamation declaring the annual celebration of the contributions women have made in shaping our democracy. She joined us at the White House for what would be one of her final visits to honor women from all walks of life, many of whom had been inspired by her noble acts.
I believe Dr. Height had what Dr. King called “long life and longevity” because she was selfless in her service and lived to uplift her neighbor, whether they lived next door or half way around the world. In one of her final interviews just over a month ago, Dr. Height was asked what advice she would offer to teenage girls trying to find their way. She offered a very basic yet profound charge: find a purpose.
Dr. Height’s purpose was to open doors that had been closed for far too long. Upon reflection on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 when she was well into her nineties, and when many of us would have thought a good rest was long overdue, Dr. Height said, “I felt pleased and proud, but also challenged to see what more I could do.”
In her honor, we all should be willing to challenge ourselves to see what more we can do every single day.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Special 44-D Tribute ~ Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Founding Matriarch of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 98
“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them”
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