"I have to say to you, I've only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president," Biden said at the White House during a signing ceremony.
"I regret that my grandchildren aren't here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history -- and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we've come (and) the distance we have to travel," Biden said.
The ceremony, which took place in the East Room, included some 80 members of Congress -- including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, local elected officials, community leaders and activists. The President specifically noted that Opal Lee, the activist who campaigned to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, was in attendance.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Only a handful of states currently observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
Biden, speaking at the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, repeated the sentiments he relayed when he commemorated the Tulsa race massacre earlier this year, that "great nations don't ignore their most painful moments."
"They embrace them. Great nations don't walk away. We've come to terms with the mistakes we made and in remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger," the President said.
During the ceremony, the President said it was not enough to commemorate the holiday, but to use it as a day of reflection and action.
Story by Kate Sullivan & Maegan Vazquez
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