We are marching by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King

Because they marched. We are marching.

President Barack Obama’s commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington expressed the Civil Rights Movement’s globally-endearing sentiment: its rallying cry is inclusion, freedom, and justice for all of humanity; the mission transcends national boundaries and appeals to all disenfranchised, struggling communities.

Obama suggested that the march toward civil rights is in the small, decent, personal moments of our daily life — as much as in the greater legislative and executive decisions made — and he reminded us that often these decent, personal moments happen when we recognize humanity regardless of color, race or creed. When we treat each other with decency and respect, Obama taught, we are marching.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV. – Obama

Obama’s speech was a lesson in character and a rejection of prejudiced barriers or conceptions. Its theme could be summarized as, we are marching by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin. As the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, Obama said, it does not bend alone. And those that strive toward this justice must not be disheartened or discouraged by the sorry state of affairs for as Obama encouraged:

People of good will, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents. – Obama

The current or arc, indeed, is underpinned by economic justice. Obama reminded us that central to the movement and American prosperity is economic justice and the integrity of work. The integrity of good work and its inherent opportunities for happiness and fulfillment are integral to America since its founding. Jefferson understood its import to fulfilling the destiny of the American vision.

This idea that — that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood, that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security — this idea was not new. – Obama

Of course attaining good labor is connected to quality education, and Obama described public education’s insufficiency in empowering communities to rise above the cycle of poverty. He reminded us that our troubled schools and economy need immediate attention in order to break the cycle of poverty and insure economic justice.

And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. – Obama

While Obama’s commemoration reminded us that we still have much work to do to restore American prosperity, its central theme strove to empower and include all of humanity. The speech implicitly recognized our new global community, connected by the internet and social media, and invited everyone — as much in our personal moments of decency and our public actions — to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice as the Civil Rights leaders taught us:

On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth, or title or fame, would liberate us all. – Obama

Will liberate us all.

 

 

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