Fifty years after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, the US’s first black president, Barack Obama, marked the event before a crowd of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Thousands of marchers gathered in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, as the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, honoured King’s legacy but also spoke of growing inequalities across the US.
Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the site of King’s original speech in 1963, Obama evoked a time in US history when segregation was still commonplace in Southern states and equal rights were hard won.
“There were couples in love who couldn’t marry. Soldiers who fought for freedom abroad but couldn’t find any at home,” Obama said.
Obama went on to say that although America has since changed, the nation’s economic disparities are evidence that there is still work to be done to fulfill King’s hopes for the future.
“To suggest as some sometimes do that little has changed, that dishonours the courage, the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years,” Obama said. “But we would dishonour those heroes as well, to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.”
"In too many communities across this country, in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth," the president added. "And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires."
“This march was supposed to be about jobs, but it’s about a lot more,” said marcher Ash Mobley, 27, of Washington who said she was there to represent her grandmother, who had been at the original event.
In addition to combating joblessness, civil rights leaders have recently poured their energy into issues such as fighting restrictive voting rights laws that Democrats say hurt minorities and reducing gun violence.
Wednesday’s event began in the morning with a march led by a line of military veterans and people who participated in the original March on Washington, walking arm-in-arm.
Some sang old civil rights anthems, including “We Shall Overcome”, before gathering at the Lincoln Memorial.
Other speakers included civil rights activist and Georgia State Representative John Lewis, former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as several members of the King family, including his children Martin Luther King III and Rev. Dr. Bernice King. The commemoration also included a bell-ringing ceremony, in reference to King’s call to, “Let freedom ring”.
The event marks the end of a week-long commemoration of King’s historic call for racial and economic justice.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-08-28