Newport’s Man-About-Town Frank Geltner watched President Obama Wednesday pay tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr in front throngs of people who descended on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech. President Obama professed to more than a quarter million people that “Dr. King’s words belong to the ages.”
“His words still possess a power and prophecy unmatched in our time,” Obama said of America’s best known and revered freedom seeking soul, “We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions.”
President Obama pointed to empowering civil rights and employment laws, social and attitude changes, and himself, an elected black president, as examples of how far the country has progressed since King’s speech. But he was quick to point to lingering, if not continued glaring economic disparities between whites and blacks as proof that King’s dream has not .
However, Obama did honor the progress the country has made. “On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank, or wealth, or title, or fame liberates us all, in ways that our children now take for granted,” Obama proclaimed. “To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest as some sometimes do that little has changed, dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march during all those years.”
In an interview with PBS Newshour after his speech, Obama said he would continue to push his economic agenda — including early childhood education, an increase in the minimum wage, cutting college costs and bolstering the housing recovery — as a way forward in the struggle for equal rights.
“Where Congress is unwilling to move, we will move,” he said.