The March for Life has served more than any other annual occasion to focus the energy of the pro-life cause and to promote solidarity and enthusiasm in our ranks. And the March was Nellie Grey.
She saw things clearly in 1973 that took some of us much longer to see at all. Her presence through the years reminded us that the struggle would not be quickly won and that patience was a necessary virtue for those of us who joined the struggle. She grew old on the podium while the crowds surrounding the podium grew younger.
One could not attend the March without believing not just that we would win eventually, but that we are winning now. Those of us who live at a distance from Washington, D.C., but regularly accompany university students to the March, are reminded every January of the impact this event has on the young as well as the older participants. As recently as 1980, only one Notre Dame student attended the March. This past year, over 400 students attended accompanied by two dozen or so faculty members. And our numbers are growing every year.
The March is the central item in the pro-life calendar on the Notre Dame campus. Activities in the fall semester anticipate it, while those in the spring semester are enlivened by it. We are always either preparing for it or living in its afterglow. It is difficult to imagine what else could shape our pro-life efforts on this campus so magnificently.
For those of us of an age to have had our moral sensibilities shaped by the civil-rights struggle of the 1960’s, the March and the crowds on the Mall are a reminder of the links between the two great civil-rights issues of our age, the struggles for racial justice and for the rights of the unborn.
It was Martin Luther King’s soaring rhetoric and inspiring witness that made the Mall hallowed ground. Though her rhetoric was quite different from Martin Luther King’s, Nellie Grey was no less a witness to what a struggle for justice requires of all of us. We will always be grateful that she invited us all to join her each January to stand together in memory of the victims of our brutal abortion regime, and that she became our great symbol of the patient hope that looks to that future when the unborn can once again be assured their proper standing in our community. Thank you, Nellie.
— David Solomon is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and chairman of the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life.
Like so many right-to-lifers, Nellie Gray dedicated herself to saving the lives of those she would never meet. Through the March for Life — and the many marches and rallies it inspired in state capitals across the country — Nellie helped keep our great cause everpresent in the public mind.
As a result of Nellie’s tireless efforts, every January, hundreds of thousands of right-to-life activists from coast to coast gather to remember the millions of innocent unborn children who have lost their lives as a result of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. They leave inspired; ready to return to their local communities and continue their selfless efforts to defend the defenseless. Those dedicated activists are making a tremendous difference.
But where we see that difference the most is in the overwhelming number of young people — the “Roe generations” who have lost more than 54 million friends, classmates, brothers and sisters — who have taken up the cause of life. The passion and enthusiasm that motivate these young people is what gives us reason for hope for the future and what so discourages pro-abortionists.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we will once again gather and show the country that the right-to-life movement is stronger than ever. And though Nellie Gray will be missing, her legacy of selfless dedication will continue to inspire and motive more activists in the fight for life.
— Carol Tobias is president of the National Right to Life Committee.