Half a century after Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial, peered out at a crowd of 250,000 people and delivered the now famous “I Have A Dream” speech, a new generation of Americans were yesterday admonished to keep the dream alive and make it their own.
Addressing an estimated 100,000 people marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Prime Minister Perry Christie said it was a time for renewal, but above all, a time for rededication to the dream that MLK Jr. championed throughout his life.
“…Stand up for right and not for wrong, for love and not for hate. It is the timelessness and universality of the message that he proclaimed and the heroic majesty of his personal example that explains why Martin Luther King Jr. is as relevant today, as compelling today, as inspirational today as he was 50 years ago, when from these very precincts he delivered the oration that rocked the conscience of America and the world,” the prime minister said.
“When he spoke as he did that day, we somehow knew, we somehow felt that his message was coming from a place that was not only deep within himself, but deep within us all. He had awakened to the call of that place and was rousing us from our slumber so that we could take our own inner soundings and hear it too. In so doing, he gave language to our deepest yearnings for a better life. His work remains unfinished. May the light of his flame continue to guide us, each in his own nation to continue the work of Martin Luther King.”
Mr. Christie spoke for only a few minutes, but was the only Caribbean leader to address the crowd.
The Martin Luther King Foundation invited the prime minister to speak after hearing him address the Trumpet Awards several years ago.
Attendees of the “Let Freedom Ring” event also heard from Myrlie Evers, widow of slain civil rights activist, Medgar Evers; Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network (NAN); actors Forest Whitaker and Jamie Foxx, media mogul and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey; Christine King-Farris, MLK Jr’s older sister and only surviving sibling as well as former US presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Headlining yesterday’s event was President Barack Obama, America’s first black leader.
Standing in the same spot as did Dr King half a century ago, President Obama spoke of the progress that has been made since the 1963 march as well as his vision for the future.
“To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency, 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 is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails. It requires vigilance” the president said.
“We will suffer the occasional setback, but we win these fights. This country has changed too much. People of goodwill regardless of party are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents.”