WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in honor of the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” Speech.
“Forty five years ago today, some 300,000 men, women, and children poured into Washington, DC, to claim their equal rights as citizens. They marched and spoke against a system of racial discrimination that had consigned their ancestors to slavery for two and a half centuries, and consigned them to vote-less, right-less, second-class citizenship for a century more. And armed with the power of nonviolence, they succeeded: Their efforts helped make racial equality the law of the land. In the words of historian Taylor Branch, they were no less than ‘the modern founders of democracy.’
“Today we remember Rev. King’s eloquent words of brotherhood, even as a black man prepares to accept a major party’s presidential nomination for the first time in our history. But as we saw in 1963, a movement for change is defined by far more than its leaders.
“When the organizers of the March were at the Capitol, meeting with leaders of Congress, they looked down the Mall and saw that the crowd of 300,000, spontaneously, had already begun to walk toward the Lincoln Memorial. One of the organizers looked at John Lewis and shouted, ‘We’re supposed to be leading them!’
“But John Lewis, who today represents Georgia in Congress, later said this: ‘I remember thinking, there goes America. We were supposed to be the leaders of this march, but the march was all around us, already taking off, already gone.’
“Today, as then, the work of finishing the journey belongs to every one of us.”