The TV towers and broadcast infrastructures are in place at the Lincoln Memorial. The networks and news organizations are gearing up for extensive coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington over the next five days.
Everyone has much to say. Multiple interest groups and activists have lined up in solidarity with events that begin Saturday and stretch to Wednesday, the actual anniversary date of Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. President Obama will deliver what could be his own speech of the year - or even his presidency - from the very steps of the aforementioned memorial.
It’s a high stakes moment. One thing is for sure though: that speech will be delivered before a very uneasy planet.
What is in store? Here is Mr. Obama’s official proclamation recognizing the 1963 march, issued by the White House on Friday afternoon:
“On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands converged on the National Mall to take part in what the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called ‘the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.’ Demonstrators filled the landscape - from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, alongside the still waters of the reflecting pool, to the proud base of the Washington Monument. They were men and women; young and old; black, white, Latino, Asian, and Native American - woven together like a great American tapestry, sharing in the dream that our Nation would one day make real the promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all.
The March on Washington capped off a summer of discontent, a time when the clarion call for civil rights was met with imprisonment, bomb threats, and base brutality. Many of the marchers had endured the smack of a billy club or the blast of a fire hose. Yet they chose to respond with nonviolent resistance, with a fierce dignity that stirred our Nation’s conscience and paved the way for two major victories of the Civil Rights Movement - the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Today, we remember that the March on Washington was a demonstration for jobs as well as freedom. The coalition that brought about civil rights understood that racial equality and fairness for workers are bound together; when one American gets a raw deal, it jeopardizes justice for everyone. These are lessons we carry forward - that we cannot march alone, that America flourishes best when we acknowledge our common humanity, that our future is linked to the destiny of every soul on earth.
It is not enough to reflect with pride on the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. In honor of every man, woman, and child who left footprints on the National Mall, we must make progress in our time. Let us guard against prejudice - whether at the polls or in the workplace, whether on our streets or in our hearts - and let us pledge that, in the words of Dr. King, ‘we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ “