Quantcast
Latest Stories

Obama at 50th anniversary embodies King’s dream


President Barack Obama speaks at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr., spoke, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. AP

WASHINGTON— President Barack Obama led civil rights pioneers Wednesday in a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech roused the 250,000 people who rallied there decades ago for racial equality.

Large crowds gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, where the first black U.S. president spoke just after 1900 GMT — the same time that King delivered his spellbinding speech.

The first march was early in the turbulent 1960s, when the South still had separate restrooms, schools and careers for blacks and whites, and racism lingered across the country. In the two years following the march, President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to outlaw discrimination, and King received the Nobel Peace Prize.

“There were couples in love who couldn’t marry. Soldiers who fought for freedom abroad but couldn’t find any at home,” Obama said, speaking of that era. “America changed for you and for me,” he added later.

But he pointed to the nation’s economic disparities as evidence that King’s hopes remain unfulfilled.

“The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice but it doesn’t bend on its own,” Obama said, in an allusion to King’s own message.

The name of that original march was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Obama has said King is one of two people he admires “more than anybody in American history.” The other is Abraham Lincoln. Thousands of people were in attendance in wet weather.

Two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, spoke movingly of King’s legacy — and of problems still to overcome.

“This march, and that speech, changed America,” Clinton declared.

Carter said King’s efforts had helped not just black Americans, but “In truth, he helped to free all people.”

Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker and Jamie Foxx were among the celebrities.

Winfrey said King forced the nation “to wake up, look at itself and eventually change.”

International commemorations were being held at London’s Trafalgar Square, as well as in the nations of Japan, Switzerland, Nepal and Liberia. London Mayor Boris Johnson has said King’s speech resonates around the world and continues to inspire people as one of the great pieces of oratory.

On Aug. 28, 1963, as King was ending his speech, he quoted from the patriotic song, “My Country ’tis of Thee” and urged his audience to “let freedom ring.”

“When we allow freedom to ring — when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, we are free at last,” King said.

The civil rights leader was assassinated five years later.

Not everyone at the latest march was celebrating progress. “I thought we would be a lot further along than we are 50 years after hearing King’s speech,” said John Pruitt, 83, a voter rights advocate who attended the first march as well.

Organizers of the rally broadened the focus well beyond racial issues, bringing speakers forward to address the environment, gay rights, the challenges facing the disabled and more.

Whitaker told the crowd it was their “moment to join those silent heroes of the past.”

In an interview Tuesday on Tom Joyner’s radio show, Obama said he considers the 1963 march part of his generation’s “formative memory.” A half-century after the march, he said, is a good time to reflect on how far the country has come and how far it still has to go, particularly after the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Race isn’t a subject Obama likes to talk about in public, but the Martin case is one time he has done so.

In the interview, Obama also said he imagines that King “would be amazed in many ways about the progress that we’ve made.” He listed advances such as equal rights before the law, an accessible judicial system, thousands of African-American elected officials, African-American CEOs and the doors that the civil rights movement opened for Latinos, women and gays.

“I think he would say it was a glorious thing,” he said.

But Obama noted that King’s speech was also about jobs and justice.

On Wednesday, King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, spoke on NBC of staggering unemployment among young black men.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Barack Obama , Dr. Martin Luther King , “I Have A Dream”




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Opinions split on Napoles turning state witness
  3. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  4. Plunder complaint filed vs PNP chief, firearms office head over license delivery deal
  5. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  6. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  7. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  10. Boy ‘sexually assaulted’ at Indonesia international school
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Ex-PBA player Bryan Gahol dies in road mishap
Advertisement

News

  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Sandigan junks Marcos family claim to Paoay property
  • Sports

  • Caguioa blasts ‘no heart, soft’ Ginebra on Twitter
  • San Mig Coffee grinds out win over Alaska to force decider
  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • 19 Ukrainians, Russians, Filipinas rescued in bar raid
  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement