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Thousands Rally to Commemorate MLK Jr.'s 'Dream'

  • Pamela Dockins

Participants gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Aug. 24, 2013.

Participants gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Aug. 24, 2013.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied near Washington's Lincoln Memorial, where the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his stirring "I Have a Dream" speech 50 years ago.

Some people cheered and waved banners on Saturday as speakers urged them to take up causes ranging from civil and women's rights to immigration reform and ending gun violence.

A host of speakers paid tribute to the civil rights leader who was assassinated nearly five years after delivering his famous speech.

Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, spoke at the original March on Washington in 1963. On Saturday, he recalled the hardships that he had endured as an African American fighting for equality.

"I got arrested 40 times during the '60s, beaten and left bloody and unconscious. But, I am not tired. I am not weary. I am not prepared to sit down and give up. I am ready to fight and to continue to fight," he said.

The large, multi-racial crowd also heard from the wife of another slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers. Myrlie Evers-Williams questioned if the nation had made progress on racial equality.

"As I look out at the crowd," Evers-Williams said, "I find myself asking, 'What are we doing today? Where have we come from? What has been accomplished? And, where do we go from this point forward?'"

Another speaker, Congressman Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, suggested the United States had moved forward.

"The historic election of President [Barack] Obama testifies to the progress we have made which would not have been possible except for the millions who sacrificed and raised their voices for change," he said.

The King commemoration included African Americans, Asian Americans, immigrants and youth.

Nine-year-old Asean Johnson lobbied for improvements in schools.

"Every child deserves a great education. Every school deserves equal funding and resources," said Johnson.

Janet Murguia heads the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights group. She said Hispanics consider themselves part of King's dream.

"Millions of Latinos were watching that day in 1963. When we heard Dr. King proclaim, 'I have a dream,' we knew he was talking to us too," said Murguia.

The son of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, III, said some of the causes his father fought for remain troubling issues today.

"Today with 12 percent unemployment rates in the African American community and 38 percent of all children of color in this country living below the level of poverty, we know that the dream is far from being realized," said King.

King said while his father's vision has not been realized fully, he is not going to be dissuaded from pushing for change.

"We ain't going to let nobody turn us around. We are going to keep on walking. We are going to keep on talking. We are going to keep on voting. We are going to keep on job building," he said.

King said if people do their part to advance the cause of freedom at home, in school, on the job and in organizations, then change will come.

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