Speaking on the same spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago, President Obama heralded the advances in race relations in the United States, but also told the crowd that King’s dream has not fully been fulfilled, particularly in terms of economic opportunity.
“To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed, that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years,” Obama said. “But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.”
The president pointed to voter-ID legislation, the criminal-justice system, and underperforming schools as examples of issues hurting the black community that are in need of remedy. He also told the audience that the civil-rights “victories may have obscured a second goal” behind the original 1963 march.
“They were there seeking jobs as well as justice, not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity,” President Obama said. He urged the crowd to maintain the “vigilance” of those that came before them, but to recognize they will face the “occasional setback” in their effort.