Obama to speak on 50th anniversary of March on Washington

Aug. 8, 2013 at 3:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- President Obama will observe the March on Washington's 50th anniversary at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

The president will speak on the steps of the memorial, as King did, at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony Aug. 28 organized by the King Center in Atlanta, the White House said, adding it would release other details "as they become available."

The event, billed as a commemoration of King's speech and a "nationwide and global day of unity," will begin with an interfaith religious service in the morning and include a bell-ringing ceremony at 3 p.m., "a half-century to the minute after Dr. King delivered his historic address," the King Center said.

"It's obviously a historic, seminal event in the country," Obama told The New York Times in an interview July 24. "It's part of my generation's formative memory and it's a good time for us to do some reflection.

"Obviously, after the Trayvon Martin case, a lot of people have been thinking about race, but I always remind people -- and, in fact, I have a copy of the original program in my office, framed -- that that was a march for jobs and justice; that there was a massive economic component to that," he said.

Obama predicted if economic inequities persist, "racial tensions won't get better; they may get worse."

The Aug. 28, 1963, rally, called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in U.S. history, attracting an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people.

The march -- 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation -- called for civil and economic rights for African-Americans.

It is widely credited with helping to pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key Voting Rights Act provision in June. Obama has called that ruling a setback.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is organizing a separate anniversary march Aug. 24 called "No Justice, No Peace" that will focus on voter rights, racial profiling, poverty and other social issues.

Obama has often shied away from talking about race relations, although that has changed lately.

The president also made a rare appearance in the White House press briefing room July 19 to speak personally about the anger and pain many African-Americans felt after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Martin.

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