Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 29th 2013 Contents B31
Thursday, August 29, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
WASHINGTON---President Barack Obama
led civil rights pioneers yesterday in a cer-
emony 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 US president
spoke just after 1900---the same time that
King delivered his spellbinding speech.
Dr Martin Luther
King Jr, head of the
during his I Have a
Dream speech at
Memorial for the
Jobs and Freedom
in Washington on
August 28, 1963.
Sammy Davis Jr is
at bottom right.
Obama at 50th anniversary
embodies King's dream
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 dis-
crimination, 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
But he pointed to the nation s economic disparities
as evidence that King s hopes remain unfulfilled.
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 prob-
lems still to overcome.
"This march, and that speech, changed America,"
Carter said King s efforts had helped not just black
Americans, but "In truth, he helped to free all peo-
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 August 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
"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.
Organisers 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."
Obama considers the 1963 march part of his gen-
eration 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 an interview Tuesday on Tom Joyner s radio
show, Obama 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. (AP)
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