“They’re marching.” That’s the phrase that will resonate from the rhetoric of Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, standing on the spot where 50 years ago at the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made “I have a dream” a national mantra.
King’s words, delivered as only a Southern Baptist preacher could, still inspire all who believe in equal rights and opportunity in America. Obama could not match King’s oratory, but he evoked the preacher’s style and delivered a message of hope for those who see how far the nation has come in 50 years — could King have envisioned a black president standing in his place? — and how far it has to go to truly fulfill the dream.
It was a stirring speech, stronger for the fact that along with racial struggles, Obama primarily addressed the economic challenges that were the reason for the original march, and which in some ways have increased for all Americans today, with the gap between rich and poor. Calling out those who see no common purpose in rebuilding the middle class, Obama reaffirmed the power of community — declaring that “the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.”