50 years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in Washington, President Barack Obama – the United States’s first-ever African American president – stood at the same place and addressed the same backdrop.
“They came by the thousands, from every corner of our country,” Obama said on Wednesday, in a commemorative event marking 1963’s March on Washington. “Men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others.”
“There were couples in love who couldn’t marry. Soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten. Children fire hosed. They had every reason to lash out in anger or resign themselves to a bitter fate.
“And yet, they chose a different path.”
The President continued:
“Because they kept marching, America changed.
“Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed, because they marched, a voting rights law was signed, because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and their sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes.”
Obama was joined at Wednesday’s event by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – both Democrats – as well as television host Oprah Winfrey.
“As the bells toll today, let us reflect on the bravery, let us reflect on the sacrifice of those who stood up for freedom, who stood up for us, whose shoulders we now stand on,” said Winfrey, who was nine years old on August 28, 1963.
“As the bells toll today at three, let us ask ourselves: How will the dream live on in me? In you? In all of us? As the bells toll, let us remind ourselves, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Videos below (from NBC News):