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Oldest Park Ranger Turns 95, Tours New African American Museum

"Everyone knew that I was dying to attend this opening"

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    As part of her 95th birthday present, the nation's oldest full-time park ranger got a tour ahead of the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Published Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016)

    As part of her 95th birthday present, the nation's oldest full-time park ranger got a tour this week ahead of the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

    And on Thursday, Betty Reid Soskin will be slicing cake with the Secretary of the Interior, after a whirlwind week of historical stops and talks to celebrate being born on Sept. 22, 1921.

    "Betty exemplifies what it means to live your passion and to stand up for what you think is right through sharing your stories," her boss, National Park Service Supt. Tom Leatherman, told NBC Bay Area. "She's helping to inspire other people to do the same thing."

    Last Saturday, Soskin presented the new museum a photograph of the convent of the nation's first all-black religious Order - the Holy Family Sisters.  The convent was built in New Orleans by her grandfather, Louis Charbonnet.

    She was more than thrilled.

    "Everyone knew that I was dying to attend this opening," Soskin wrote in early September on her blog. "And that means that this 'lil ole lady ranger will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Laura Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Willie Brown, General Colin Powell, etc., and we may all be wondering just how on earth she ever got on the A-List!"

    During her visit, Soskin also met with students to share her experiences during World War II, and the subsequent civil rights battles across the country. She also participated in a panel before the Congressional Black Caucus Conference. She flew out to D.C. last week alongside her direct supervisor, Kellie English, who has been documenting some of the trip on Facebook.

    Soskin still works full-time at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif.

    Soskin has been leading these educational tours, to both children and adults,  since she was 85 years old, explaining her slice of history 40 hours a week. During World War II, Soskin worked as a clerk for the all-black Boilermakers A-36.

    More recently, she grabbed headlines during the 2013 federal funding crisis when she urged Congress to get its act together so she didn't have to sit at home, not getting paid during the national furlough.

    Because of all her work, Soskin was invited to light the national Christmas tree in December, where she introduced President Barack Obama.That's when he slipped her a presidential coin.

    In June, someone broke into her home and brutally attacked her, stealing electronics, and the special coin. In July, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell came to Richmond, Calif., to give Soskin a replacement coin.

    It was then that Jewell asked Soskin to attend the African American history museum opening as her plus-one, Leatherman said.

    The museum opens to the public on Saturday.

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