Obama Addresses D.C. with M.L.K. Tribute

August 28, 2013

Washington D.C.–It may have been a rainy, gloomy day, but on the National Mall where thousands of men, women and children gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech” and the March on Washington spirits soared high. The March was led by surviving participants in the 1963 march, who carried signs from the original rally bearing slogans demanding equality.

It’s a sobering thought that fifty years ago tens of thousands of neglected and abused US citizens marched along the nation’s capital, demanding only equal rights relative to their fellow Americans. During the 1963 march, President John F. Kennedy refused to attend, preferring to stay in the White House a few blocks away and observe the event from his television set. Fifty years later, President Barack Obama gave an address at the very same spot from which Martin Luther King Jr. rallied his crowd to march peacefully, yet diligently, in order to gain civil equality. In attendance was Vice President Biden, and two former U.S. Presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

President Obama’s speech was riveting; as the first African American President, he has rarely confronted the issue of race. Today was different. Opening with an acknowledgement to the sacrifices made by the King family, he went on to quote:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

These words, anchoring the civil rights movement to the basic tenets which contributed to the progress of our great country, made the crowd swell with pride and emotion. President Obama went on to explain that this day fifty years ago was made significant by the Dr. King’s speech, but would not have had the impact it did without the everyday person–the thousands of unrecognized faces in the crowd on that August day in 1963.

Before the conclusion of the speech, President Obama once again addressed the gathered sea of emotional, devoted citizens.

“The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history–that we are masters of our fate. But, it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow-feeling–the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.”

As the crowd dispersed, some participants could be heard singing, “Free At Last”, reminiscent of the same chants from years past.