Fifty years ago Wednesday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech, sharing his desire to see the nation rise "from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice."
King's speech on August 28, 1963 was a landmark occasion for the civil rights movement, and is considered one of the most famous speeches in American history. More than 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to hear the famous leader speak these words:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal" … I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Fatally shot five years after the speech, King didn't get to experience the lasting fruits of his labor for civil rights and economic justice. He didn't live long enough to see perhaps the most symbolic representation of progress 50 years later: President Barack Obama.
"Because of them, city councils and state legislatures changed, Congress changed and yes, eventually the White House changed," Obama said of the legacy of civil rights activists at the 50th anniversary celebration Wednesday. "Because they marched, America became more free and more fair. Not just for African-Americans, but for women and Latinos , Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews, Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities. America changed for you and for me."
But many contend that the country still has a lot of work to do to achieve both racial and economic justice for all people. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that only 45 percent of Americans say the Unites States has made "a lot" of progress towards racial equality, and 49 percent say much must still be done.
Writing for U.S. News, former congressman Allen West said that the economy is still working against the black community:
We have fought to break the chains of physical bondage, but today the chains of economic bondage are even worse. This is not about social justice but about ensuring that the economic opportunities of America can resurrect small business entrepreneurship in the black community. Our economic, tax, and regulatory policies must promote free market growth, investment, innovation and ingenuity to enable self-reliance.
Recent events like the racially-charged Trayvon Martin trial and new voter ID laws, critics say, show that King's dream has yet to be achieved in America.
What do you think? Fifty years after the March on Washington, has enough progress been made? Take the poll and comment below.
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