President Obama marks King speech

Posted by Warren Fyfe on August 28, 2013 in Warren Fyfe Site

US President Barack Obama

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US President Barack Obama: “Because they marched, America became more free and fair”

US President Barack Obama has linked the ongoing struggle for economic equality in America with the goals of the 1963 March on Washington, in a speech marking its 50th anniversary.

Mr Obama, the first black US president, said economic and political equality was “our great unfinished business”.

He also linked his own rise to the White House with the efforts of civil rights protesters.

Members of the King family and veterans of the march also spoke.

The 1963 march is considered a catalyst for civil rights reforms in the US.

Mr Obama opened his address at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall almost 50 years to the minute after Martin Luther King Jr began his celebrated I Have a Dream speech.

The time – 15:00 local time (19:00 GMT) – was marked by ringing bells.

Mr Obama began by honouring King, as well as the many marchers who descended on Washington to protest for civil rights 50 years ago.

“They assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the great emancipator, to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience,” Mr Obama said.

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People gather by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on 28 August 2013Thousands of people have braved rain in Washington DC to commemorate a half century since Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech

Martin Luther King at the March on WashingtonThe civil rights leader delivered his legendary address to some 250,000 protesters at the Lincoln Memorial in America’s capital city

People prepare to march from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on 28 August 2013Americans of all backgrounds and colours massed on Washington DC’s National Mall to remember the event that gave the civil rights movement unstoppable momentum

People from around the US arrive for the 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington DC on 28 August 2013Young and old, they gathered to witness a moment rich with history and symbolism: Barack Obama, the first black president, made a speech from the spot where King envisaged his dream

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with former US President Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on 28 August 2013US President Barack Obama was joined by two of his predecessors in the White House, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter

People from around the US arrive for the 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington DC on 28 August 2013Some of those at the event attended the original speech

Three people wait under an umbrella in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC on 28 August 2013Organisers of the rally broadened the focus beyond racial issues, to address the environment, gay rights and challenges faced by those with disabilities

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“Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislators changed and Congress changed, and yes, eventually the White House changed,” Mr Obama said to great cheers.

“Because they marched, America became more free and fair.”

Mr Obama argued that much had changed over the past 50 years, but “the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the march” – jobs and the promise of fair access to economic opportunity.

“We must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires,” Mr Obama said.

“It was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life.

“To win that battle, to answer that call – this remains our great unfinished business.”

The US president, who has clashed with Republicans in Congress over his economic policies, criticised “entrenched interests” and “elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division”.

But he said the 1963 march “teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate”.

Mr Obama was joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, who also spoke.

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‘I have a dream’ revisited

Stevie Wonder, Malala, Maya Angelou and Dalai Lama

Former President George W Bush, who is recovering from a heart procedure, sent a message of support.

In his statement Mr Bush said Mr Obama’s presidency reflected “the promise of America” and “will help us honor the man who inspired millions to redeem that promise”.

Chat show host Oprah Winfrey and actors Forest Whitaker and Jamie Foxx also attended the event.

Wednesday’s rainy commemoration began with marchers walking the streets of Washington DC behind a replica of the bus once rode by seamstress Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her bus seat for a white passenger in 1955.

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King’s struggle is far from over, his dream not a reality for many”

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Half a century ago, Martin Luther King led some 250,000 protesters down the same strip and delivered his famous speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character,” he said, in one of the most celebrated pieces of American oratory.

His address marked the peak of a series of protests against racial discrimination that began when Rosa Parks launched the bus protests.

Her action sparked a bus boycott campaign across Montgomery, Alabama.

King became a dominant force in the movement and so was called on to make the final speech at the march.

He advocated the use of non-violent tactics such as sit-ins and protest marches, and was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1964.

Four years later, his assassination led to rioting in more than 100 US cities.

Worshippers in church

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Many African Americans say King’s dream is still not a reality

Organisers of Wednesday’s commemoration are focusing beyond racial issues to address the environment, gay rights and the challenges faced by those with disabilities, among other matters.

In an interview on Tuesday with a radio show, President Obama said he imagines that King “would be amazed in many ways” about the social progress made since that speech.

He cited the prominent role of many African-Americans in the political and business spheres, as well as equal rights before the law.

Mr Obama, whose own oratory is often praised, said his address on Wednesday would not match that by the civil rights leader.

“It won’t be as good as the speech 50 years ago,” he said. “I just want to get that out there early.”

“When you are talking about Dr King’s speech at the March on Washington,” he added, “you’re talking about one of the maybe five greatest speeches in American history.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23861859#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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