Thousands of people descended on the National Mall Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. The gathering wraps up a week of events marking 50 years since that speech and the revolutionary March on Washington. Geoff Bennett was there and has more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Under gray skies, President Barack Obama, two former presidents, civil rights leaders and entertainers paid tribute to Dr. King and the lions of the civil rights movement at the Lincoln Memorial, right where Dr. King stood 50 years ago.
"We should all thank God for Dr. King and John Lewis and all those who gave us a dream to guide us. And we thank them for reminding us that America is always becoming, always on a journey," Bill Clinton said.
A nation on a journey and at a crossroads.
"God knows we’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet," Rev. Al Sharpton said.
Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro was the only Latino lawmaker to speak at the event.
“Oh, it was very special. First of all, as an American. But also somebody of a younger generation who was born post-civil rights generation, as someone whose family marched on the streets of San Antonio and throughout Texas. It was very special for me,” Castro said.
At three o’clock, the thousands gathered here, along with people across the country, paused to ring bells to mark the moment when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 50 years ago.
The Obamas and members of the King family rang a bell saved after the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed in 1963. Then, President Obama took the stage. He opened his remarks, honoring the movement that paved the way to his presidency.
"Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, a voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else's laundry," Obama said.
And he offered an analysis of the progress made on Dr. King’s dream.
"When millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low and those rough places will be made plain and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," Obama said.