Amid embattled controversy in response to President Donald Trump's attendance at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the president offered remarks in support of ideals he says the museum represents.
Originally scheduled to speak at the opening ceremony for the museum Saturday, but was instead arranged by local leaders and The White House to speak briefly to an intimate audience following a private tour of the museum.
Trump spoke just before 11:30, acknowledging several noted guests in the room. The president commended Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who offered him an invitation to the ceremony, for his efforts in helping the museum open.
"(This is) a great thing you've done," he said. "It is an honor."
Trump stated that the museum "embodies the hope that has lived in Americans for generations."
The president mentioned several notable Mississippians featured in the museum such as James Meredith, who integrated The University of Mississippi in 1962, and the Tougaloo Nine group of students who protested the segregation of public institutions at Jackson Municipal Library in 1961.
Prime among Civil Rights leaders Trump recognized was the late Medgar Evers, whose wife Myrlie Evers-Williams was in attendance along with his brother Charles Evers.
Trump asked Charles Evers to stand, telling the audience that Evers met him shortly after his plane landed and that he was "very nice." Trump extended his remarks about Evers-Williams with a pause, allowing the crowd to give her an ovation. Trump joined in with a round of applause.
Speaking of Medgar Evers, Trump called the late Civil Rights leader "a great American hero."
He continued, bringing the sacrifice of men and women like Evers into focus for America today.
"We want the country to be a place where evry child, regardless of background can be free form fear," he said. "(This museum) is a tribute to our nation at the highest level."
Along with the Missisippi Civil Rights Musuem, Jackson is celebrating the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History. Following Trump's departure, a public ceremony will continue outside the museum's entrance.
Several local and national leaders protested Trump's presence in Jackson during the opening day celebrations such as National NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Mississippi District 2 Representative Bennie Thompson and Georgia District 5 Representative John Lewis.
Lewis and Thompson released a joint statement expounding on their disinterest in Trump's appearance in Jackson:
"After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
"President Trump's attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump's disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants, and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.
"After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum."