Sanders Delivers Remarks at the Unveiling of the Daisy Lee Gatson Bates Statue in Statuary Hall

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered remarks at the unveiling of the Daisy Lee Gatson Bates Statue in Statuary Hall on Wednesday, May 8th.

The Governor’s remarks as prepared are below:

It is a privilege to be here in our nation’s Capitol to represent the State of Arkansas and honor one of our state’s finest, Daisy Gatson Bates. Thank you to Arkansas’ congressional delegation and congressional leadership from both sides of the aisle for being here. It’s also great to see so many friendly faces in the crowd. That’s not always the norm for D.C., but no surprise that, even though she is gone, Daisy is still bringing people together.  

I can’t think of a better way to elevate this program than with singers from two of Arkansas’ HBCUs – UAPB and Philander Smith. Both schools were at the center of activism during the Civil Rights Era – and today, one of them sits on Daisy Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock. 

 We’re also here with many of Bates’ family and friends, and the President of the Daisy Bates Museum – living reminders that, though Daisy is no longer with us, her legacy and impact live on. 

I’m privileged enough to have met Daisy Bates. I’m a Little Rock Central High Class of 2000 graduate – the same school that Bates helped desegregate. We remember – rightly – the heroism of the Little Rock Nine who first desegregated Central. And we also remember that always right there with them was Daisy, one moment privately comforting those brave students, the next, publicly confronting Arkansas’ most powerful politicians. 

In 1997, my dad, then-Governor Mike Huckabee, joined then-President Bill Clinton to ceremonially open the doors of Central to the Little Rock Nine. One of my most vivid memories from growing up: thousands cheering in the crowd, media from all over the world – and up on the dais with the President, Governor, and Mayor, Daisy, in her rightful place of honor. 

But as much as I look back on that day in 1997 with fond memories, we can never forget the scene from forty years earlier. The crowds weren’t cheering, they were booing. The President had taken control of the National Guard. The Governor promised to shut the school down before he integrated it. 

The nine students were harassed, hurt, and haunted. Daisy Bates’ home was vandalized repeatedly. Bates herself was arrested. In a similar situation, most of us would’ve chosen anger and bitterness, even called for retaliation. 

But Bates didn’t. She didn’t arm the students with hate but instead with hope. She didn’t use her house to plan revenge, but instead made it a safe haven for black students. 

There was a fire inside this woman, but she didn’t use it to burn our state down. Instead, she used it to bring light to our state’s darkest corners. 

Today, it can be hard to imagine those hot September days of 1957 and the burning anger some felt toward their fellow Arkansans. It reminds me of a visit I made with my parents when I was 11, to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. 

I remember walking through those halls, seeing the unspeakable brutality committed during that dark time. And I remember at the end, pulling my father’s pen out of his shirt pocket, and signing Yad Vashem’s guest book. After writing my name and address, I wrote, “Why didn’t somebody do something?” It’s a question that still haunts me. 

Back in 1957, thankfully somebody did do something: Daisy Bates. She stood up to injustice. Amid all the hate and anger, she moved our state forward.

Daisy was the picture of courage, being willing to take on the fight because it was right, not because she knew she could win.  

Arkansans take a lot of pride in where we come from – the pioneers and patriots who built our state, the activists and advocates who changed it for the better. Daisy is one of those heroes. It’s why my dad established Daisy Gatson Bates Day, why we have Daisy Bates Elementary, Daisy Bates Drives and Daisy Bates scholarships.  

But outside of Arkansas, Bates is less well known – and it’s time to change that. This beautiful statue and this ceremony are a great place to start. Long after we’ve all retired from politics, Daisy will be standing here in these marble halls – reminding everyone of the long, difficult march it took to get us to this moment, and the importance of continuing that march forward. 

As you would expect, Daisy said it best when she said it herself: “Arkansas is the home of my birth, my growth, my identity as a woman in this world. It has claimed me from birth, I have claimed it for life.” Daisy has always claimed Arkansas andwe are proud to claim her back and have her represent all of us here in this special place.  

As Governor, and on behalf of the entire state of Arkansas, Daisy Bates makes us proud. Thank you, and may God bless the great State of Arkansas.