In one of the most historic moments of 2016 — and arguably one of the most beautiful — Barack and Michelle Obama, along with George and Laura Bush, opened the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Obama, America’s first black president, stood next to a slave block, where thousands of men and women had been bought and sold.
“Consider what this artifact tells us about history, about how its told, about what can be cast aside,” said Obama. ‘That block I think explains why this museum is so necessary, because that same object reframed, put in context, tells us so much more.”
The 85,000 square feet museum holds over 3,000 objects related to the African American journey in American life.
At one point during his speech, Obama, who is enjoying a nearly 60 percent approval rating as he enters the last few months of his presidency, wiped away a tear.
“Hopefully this museum can inspire us to talk to each other,” said Obama. “And more importantly listen to each other, and most importantly see each other, see how our stories are bound together.”
With images of ongoing protests in Charlotte on everyone’s mind, Obama pointed out the museum will be helpful for all Americans in understanding racial tensions.
“This museum gives us context for our time, gives us sense for how they have evolved,’ said Obama. “Perhaps they can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators in Ferguson and Charlotte. The story told here doesn’t just belong to black Americans, it belongs to all Americans. For the African American experience has been just as shaped by Europeans and Asian Americans and Latinos, we have informed each other, we are a stew.”
During this heated election year, where racism has taken center stage, there was beautiful moment during the ceremony when Michelle Obama and former president Bush shared an embrace.
Bush, who signed the legislation in 2003 authorizing construction of the museum on the National Mall, said a “great nation does not hide from its history, it faces its flaws and corrects them.”
Following his speech the Obama’s rang the historic Freedom Bell, which was acquired in 1886 by the historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.