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Obama celebrates legacy of Rosa Parks at statue unveiling

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"This morning we celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature, but mighty in courage. She defied the odds and she defied injustice. She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace," Obama said in his remarks.

The president was joined by congressional leaders in a ceremony that marked the first time an African-American woman was memorialized with a full statue at the Capitol.

The president said that "in a single moment," Parks helped change America and the world, helping to spark the nation's civil right movement.

"Rosa Parks would not be pushed. When the driver got up from his seat to insist that she give up hers, she would not be pushed. When he threatened to have her arrested, she simply replied, 'you may do that.' And he did," Obama added.

Obama was invited to attend the ceremony by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"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 read. "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.