Today was the culmination of the 50th anniversary of the “March On Washington.” The demonstration segment of the ceremony took place on Saturday and today was to be a celebration. In addition to Barack Obama who delivered the keynote speech, it also featured former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. An estimated 100 thousand people gathered of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness this historic event.
During the entire ceremony which concluded with the president’s speech, the bell which once rang at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. shared the podium with each speaker. The 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed just days after the march in 1963 when four young black girls were killed in the blast.
President Obama tried to downplay the effectiveness of his speech during a radio interview with Tom Joyner yesterday on the “Tom Joyner Show.” In the interview Obama stated that his speech would not be a memorable as the famous “I Have A Dream” speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago.
Despite the downplaying of the memorability of his speech, Obama did more by manning the podium as the first African-American president than any comparison of his speech to the speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. He made mention of the changes which have taken place since the original march such as, city councils, state houses, Congress and oh yes, even the White House.
Today’s festivities were not designed to be a partisan affair, but it became apparent today as well as on Saturday that no Republican was featured on the podium nor did any one of them have a favorable comment to make in regards to the ceremonies. President Obama as well as Carter and Clinton went out of their way to ensure that their speeches merely focused on the effectiveness of the march 50 years ago and the changes which ensued as a result.
Obama stated: “Because they marched America became more free and more fair.” This was a direct contrast to the conditions that existed during the original march. Blacks have made tremendous strides in all areas of society but the income disparities are causing many in the Black community to feel that the dream of Dr. King has in reality become a nightmare. Obama went on to state: “The promises of this nation will only be kept when we work together.” Depending on your ideology, you may read into that statement a wide host of variables. The bottom line is a working together of all segments of society.
The part of the speech which no doubt touched everyone in attendance as well as those watching at home is when Obama reminded us of the age of those who change this nation for the better 50 years ago. Dr. King was about 26 years-of-age when he delivered the now famous speech. John Lewis who was the youngest speaker on that day was 23 years-of-age. With that as a back drop, Obama made a direct plea for the youth of today to get involved and not become spectators in this changing society. According to Obama, “The young are unconstrained by the habits of fear.”