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Reflections on the 1963 March on Washington
The achievements of the Civil Rights Movement presented young blacks like me with both the right and the responsibility to succeed.
I had graduated from high school and looking forward to starting at Morehouse College in the fall of 1963 – 50 years ago – when the famous March on Washington was held. I remember seeing the massive crowd of mostly black people on TV cascading from the Lincoln Monument.
I listened to some of the speeches given that day, but everybody listened to Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Only the coldest of hearts or a dead person would not have been inspired.
I must admit that as a soon-to-be college freshman, I was not convinced that any tangible results would happen following the March. Although the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were historic, I did not fully realize how their impact on Blacks and all of America would unfold until years later.
Millions of black people and minorities were the early beneficiaries of these landmark laws of the land, and most certainly beneficiaries of the Civil Rights Movement, which was punctuated with that great event and great speech by Dr. King on August 28, 1963. We must not forget, however, that there were many other sacrifices by many others for the Movement leading up to this historic day, and these historic Acts of Congress.
The Civil Rights movement afforded me and millions of Blacks and minorities the right and responsibility to succeed. It opened new doors of opportunity. Some of us ran through those doors. Some of us walked, and some of us are still standing on the outside of those doors unable to get past the history that preceded the Movement.
We have all realized great progress relative to Dr. King's dream to get to this "promised land", while encountering new challenges that did not exist before the decade of the 1960s. Advances in technology, information accessibility and demographic changes are reshaping our economic, social and political landscape. Understanding and navigating through these times of dynamic change will determine our future success.
The future is not about color barriers or denial of rights. It's about the responsibility to leverage our rights and remove all barriers to greater opportunities for all of us and our nation.
Fifty years after the March on Washington, we have all moved closer to the ideal of "all men are created equal", and closer to a society where we are all treated equally. It will never be perfect, but that's the "promised land" of Dr. King's vision for today and tomorrow.