"As we prepare to pay tribute to Mrs. Parks on behalf of the American people, we sincerely hope you and the first lady will consider joining us," the letter reads. "Your participation in this event would greatly add to its historic and cultural importance."

Unlike the majority of the statues donated by individual states, the Parks statue was unanimously authorized by Congress.

"This is a national statue and this ceremony will be a national moment, an occasion to recount a watershed event in our history and reaffirm our capacity to confront injustice and lift each other up," the congressional leaders wrote.

Obama has frequently cited Parks as an influential figure in his own life, taking time to visit the Birmingham, Ala., bus where she famously refused to give up her seat during a visit to the Henry Ford museum in Michigan. At her funeral in 2005, Obama heralded Parks as a monumental figure enabling the "nation to live up to its creed."

“The woman we honored today held no public office, she wasn’t a wealthy woman, didn’t appear in the society pages,” Obama said. “And yet when the history of this country is written, it is this small, quiet woman whose name will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten.”