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Commentary: Marching With a Purpose

I was in college in 1963 in Norfolk, Va. when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. While I agreed fully with the purpose of the March on Washington, I did not have the money nor was I resourceful enough to make my way to Washington, D.C. to participate. I did not have any sense of the importance the march would have or the eloquence of one of the many speakers that day that would resonate through history.

Last week I took part in both the “National Action to Realize the Dream March” on Aug. 24, and in the “50th Anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” last Wednesday, Aug. 28. I marched for several reasons. I believe in righting the many injustices the marches were intended to highlight. I wanted to honor the dream that Dr. King expressed and that I am committed to. Being at the marches gave me an opportunity to make a clear statement by my physical presence that we can do a lot better in this country on many issues. Further, I wanted to help swell the crowd as a demonstration that there are many who are concerned with the direction of our country on key matters.

Congressman John Lewis—the youngest speaker at the 1963 march—reminded us in his 2013 speech that we have come a long way. The obvious vestiges of segregation have been removed. But, along with the other speakers including three presidents, Congressman Lewis reminded us that much remains to be done.

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke about the changes in voting laws in this country in recent years that are designed to make it harder to vote as the laws in 1963 denied the people the right to vote at all. There is a certain irony in the fact that he might find it necessary to bring election observers he has used to help ensure fair elections in other countries to elections in some of our states. Similarly, former President Bill Clinton’s foundation’s initiatives that help to relieve poverty and suffering among children in other countries might have to be applied to children in this country as federal food and nutrition programs are cut. And, security for public events has to be so tight it took marchers hours to get through the check points to listen to the speeches in hopes of preventing violence that our lax gun safety laws and “stand your ground” provisions too often lead to.

The march to the Lincoln Memorial with long lines and delays getting through security in the light rain that fell on Wednesday was the easy part. The march from Washington back into our daily lives where we seek to fully realize the dream is the challenge. Economic injustice in this country must be addressed. Too many are left with too little, and a few have abundant resources that they can use to influence elections and policies. Belief in the American spirit and the faith that reasonableness will prevail is what keeps most of us from fearing that some of the dream might be turning into a nightmare. Marching is a small part of the purpose of ensuring that all remaining injustices are addressed!