News / USA

US Honors March on Washington 50th Anniversary

  • From left, former President Jimmy Carter, former President Bill Clinton, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, first lady Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama stand for the national anthem during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington,  Aug. 28,2013.
  • Three women who attended marches in the past, from left, Armanda Hawkins of Memphis, Vera Moore of Washington, and Betty Waller Gray of Richmond, Va., (holding sign) listen to the speakers during the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 2013, at the Lincoln Memorial.
  • The group Junkaroo performs at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 28, 2013, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 28, 2013.
  • Crowds gather on the National Mall to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 2013.
  • Martin Luther King III speaks during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of his father Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, August 28, 2013. 
  • People gather around the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 28, 2013, to listen to President Barack Obama speak during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
  • President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former president Bill Clinton and former president Jimmy Carter arrive at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 28, 2013, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
  • Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton arrive at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 28, 2013.
  • Stanley Samuels, Rita Samuels and Sammie Whiting-Ellis wait for the anniversary program to begin as they attend the March on Washington, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, August 28, 2013.
  • Actor Jamie Foxx speaks during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, August 28, 2013. 
  • A woman stands in the crowd taking part in the anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 2013. (R. Green/VOA)
  • Marchers stand in the rain in front of the Washington Monument, August 28, 2013. (R. Green/VOA)
  • Crowds gather for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 2013. (D. Manis for VOA)
  • A man sells souvenir shirts for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 2013. (D. Manis for VOA)

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

TEXT SIZE - +
— Addressing hundreds of thousands of people commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for civil rights, President Barack Obama Wednesday referred to "unfinished business" in the struggle for equality and justice in America. 

Fifty years after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at a time of severe racial injustice and inequality in America, the nation's first black president stood in the same place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In 1963, King's address energized the civil rights movement and paved the way for major legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed major forms of discrimination against minorities and women.

Mr. Obama paid tribute to the late civil rights leader and the sacrifices of those who marched in Washington to bring transformation to America.

"Because they marched, a 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 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.

Mr. Obama said those who marched in 1963 brought change not just for African Americans, but other racial and ethnic groups, women and gay Americans, and for those yearning for freedom around the world.

"America changed for you and for me, and the entire world drew strength from that example, whether it be the young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid," he said.

Mr. Obama's address marked one of only a few occasions since he was first elected to the White House in 2008 that he has spoken on a national stage about issues of race.

It also came amid new concerns about setbacks to civil rights from, among other things, the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Obama said those who suggest little has changed in America dishonor the sacrifice of those who marched in 1963.  

At the same time, he said the work is not complete. He noted challenges to voting rights, high unemployment rates for African-Americans and Latinos, and other problems he said require vigilance.

"To secure the gains that this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency, whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from under-funded schools to overcrowded jails.  It requires vigilance," he said.

Mr. Obama referred to a growing wealth gap among races, and the eroding position of working Americans, something he said makes the dream that King described "more elusive."

The president decried what he called "the politics of division" in Washington.

"We now have a choice.  We can continue down our current path in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations, where politics is a zero-sum game, where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie," he said.  "That's one path.  Or we can have the courage to change."

A long list of speakers including present-day civil rights leaders, a son and daughter of King, and television and movie stars, also addressed the crowd on the National Mall.

Former president Bill Clinton spoke about the sour national political atmosphere.

"We don't face beatings, lynchings and shootings for our political beliefs anymore, and I would respectively suggest that Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock," Clinton said.  "It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back."

Former president Jimmy Carter criticized the Supreme Court decision striking down the key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

"I believe we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the new ID requirements to exclude certain voters, especially African Americans," Carter said.  "I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the Supreme Court striking down a crucial part of the Voters Rights Act just recently passed overwhelmingly by Congress."

John Lewis, the last surviving member of the leadership of the March on Washington in 1963, pointed to progress, but said racism remains embedded in American society.

King's youngest child, Rev. Bernice King, spoke about her father's message in 1963 to "Let Freedom Ring," but said despite great strides, more work remains.

"Today, 50 years later, my friends, we are still crippled by practices and policies steeped in racial pride, hatred and hostility, some of which have us standing our ground rather than finding common ground," she said.

President Obama's speech came as he faces one of the momentous decisions of his presidency, whether to launch a military strike on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons there.


You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kimberly Michelle Scott from: Montgomery, AL
August 30, 2013 12:33 AM
It is great to see positive African American events being expressed in the community, as they are so often overlooked. We must continue to hold events like this so our voices will not grow silent.

- Kimberly Michelle Scott, Author
http://kimberlymscott.wix.com/kmscott


by: riano baggy from: indonesia
August 28, 2013 8:03 AM
yes King's dream first in US but now still a dream for another countries for their democracy and civil rights. We hope and believe, with power ,hard work and confidence and unity,we can reach our dreams come true .

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid