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"I Have a Dream" Turns 45

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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August 28, 2008

Like many of you no doubt, I really love history. I’m especially fond of learning about previous movements and struggles for social justice, a quality for which I have my dad to thank.

Today marks the 45th anniversary of a true watershed moment in the civil rights movement and American history — the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Several hundred thousand Americans — from every racial background — gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial here in Washington, D.C., and heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. This was one of those special occasions that really helped to awaken the conscience of our country and changed it for the better.

In the two years that followed, Congress would pass and President Johnson would sign into law both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — legislation that opened doors of opportunity and the promise of democracy for countless millions of Americans.

When you think that African-Americans were literally putting their lives at risk by attempting to vote in some parts of our country little more than 40 years ago, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come as a nation. As Dr. King himself said “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” While there’s no question we have yet to reach Dr. King’s “promised land,” it is worth pointing out that as we honor a shining moment in American history, an African-American stands on the cusp of becoming the nominee of a major political party for president of the United States. This is a moment that all Americans should take pride in, irrespective of our many varying personal political beliefs.

Going forward, we all can recommit ourselves to working to honor and fulfill Dr. King’s dream. As far as we’ve come in the past 50 years, imagine the changes we can bring about by 2063!

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