It was an honor to speak at the National Action to Realize the Dream March this morning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared his dream with the world and described his vision for a society that offered, and delivered, the promise of equal justice under the law. He assured his fellow citizens that this goal was within reach – so long as they kept faith with one another, and maintained the courage and commitment to work toward it.
And he urged them to do just that. By calling for no more – and no less – than equal justice. By standing up for the civil rights to which everyone is entitled. And by speaking out – in the face of hatred and violence, in defiance of those who sought to turn them back with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs – for the dignity of a promise kept; the honor of a right redeemed; and the pursuit of a sacred truth that’s been woven through our history since this country’s earliest days: that all are created equal.
Those who marched on Washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult road – from Montgomery, to Greensboro, to Birmingham; through Selma and Tuscaloosa. They marched – in spite of animosity, oppression, and brutality – because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept. Their focus, at that time, was the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the American system as it applied to African Americans.
As we gather today, 50 years later, their march – now our march – goes on. And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment. We recognize that we are forever bound to one another and that we stand united by the work that lies ahead – and by the journey that still stretches before us.
This morning, we affirm that this struggle must, and will, go on in the cause of our nation’s quest for justice – until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices. It must go on until our criminal justice system can ensure that all are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law. And it must go on until every action we take reflects our values and that which is best about us. It must go on until those now living, and generations yet to be born, can be assured the rights and opportunities that have been too long denied to too many.