Barack Obama and past presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as esteemed guests gathered at the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday, in celebration and reflection of the historic March on Washington protest.
The March on Washington happened 50 years ago Wednesday. It was a march to protest racial and economic inequality in the United States.
On the same steps where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago, President Obama, and others spoke in honour of the protest.
“Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed,” Obama said in appreciation.
Bill Clinton spoke to how Dr. King’s remarks touched both America and himself. “This march and that speech changed America,” he said, “including a 17-year-old boy watching alone in his home in Arkansas.”
Former President Jimmy Carter remembered his own presidential campaign and the support he received from the King family, who were also in attendance seated on the steps.
While the majority of the day’s speeches paid homage to those who marched, and Dr. King’s speech, many of the speakers commented on the political situation in the U.S.
“We face terrible political gridlock now,” Clinton remarked, adding that now is the time to “put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back.”
President Obama spoke about jobs and the economy, noting that there is still a racial gap in unemployment and wealth.
Other speakers at the ceremonies included Oprah Winfrey, Rep. John Lewis, as well as members of the King family.
At 3 p.m., a ceremonial bell was rung to commemorate the moment Dr. King ended his speech with the famous words “let freedom ring.”
Photo: Matt Ortega