"Not only the absence of oppression but the presence of opportunity"
In his speech at the Lincoln Memorial the President movingly honored the sacrifice and commitment of the people who marched on Washington fifty years ago today. He was emphatic in noting that the progress has been immense, an accomplishment that belongs not only to the leaders of the movement but the ordinary people who “never appeared in the history books.”
Then the President moved on and focused on what he called our “great unfinished business,” the second dimension of the original march, jobs and economic opportunity.
It was a moment to recommit ourselves to honor their struggle by continuing to fight for an economy that works for everyone, and a democracy that includes everyone.
The gap between white and black income has widened since Dr. King spoke that day. Income inequality overall has increased as well. And far too many people, as the President said, are trapped in low-wage work, making upward mobility, the central promise of the American dream, much more difficult.
The President, and many others who spoke today, also cited the new challenges to voting and democracy that belie and threaten the progress set in motion at the march. Many called out the barriers—those remaining and those newly erected—that stand in the way of a truly inclusive democracy.
But there are plenty of reasons for hope, and, as the President said, people are still marching in so many ways. Picking up the banner today are workers who are striking for a voice and a raise—in retail, fast food and federal contract jobs. These Americans are organizing in unprecedented numbers, standing up against a broken economy and fighting for an equal chance and a fair wage. And the determined fight for full voting rights and access carries forward the marchers' spirit as well.
Today was a day to remember and appreciate the courage and impact of those who marched 50 years ago. And it was a moment to recommit ourselves to honor their struggle by continuing to fight for an economy that works for everyone, and a democracy that includes everyone. The march continues.