WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) released the following statement today in observance of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was the first national civil rights demonstration and a pivotal event in the struggle for equality for black Americans:
“On a bright summer day 40 years ago today, a group of citizens spoke out to a nation of millions – and their words and actions reverberated in our hearts and minds.”
“On that day in Washington, D.C., people crowded the edge of the Reflecting Pool and swarmed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Children rode on their parents’ shoulders and elderly grandparents listened in their wheelchairs.
“These citizens, more than 250,000, were men and women of different races and diverse backgrounds. They were there to peacefully demand the equality and civil rights granted all Americans by the Constitution. They were there to challenge our country to move in a direction that would allow every individual opportunity to succeed and freedom from prejudice.
“The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke that day of a dream he had, and the dream – that all America’s children would grow up in a nation of equal promise and hope – was held aloft long after the crowds journeyed back to their homes and their jobs and their lives. That dream was nurtured even though some tried to suffocate it with oppressive violence and intimidation. And year after year, more people joined the fight to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.
“Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia, was just out of his teens when he was beaten by mobs because of his participation in the Freedom Rides. Yet he would not be deterred. He joined Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at only 23 years of age, and in the years that followed he continued the fight for freedom, despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries.
“We are still fighting today, 40 years after that historic march. We are compelled by Dr. King’s memory and that of every person who risked danger – and indeed, death – to speak out on behalf of those who are silenced and to stand up for the rights of those who are pushed down.
“We have faith that in the years to come, every citizen’s voice will be heard equally at the ballot box; every person can walk the street without fear or harassment; and every individual will be able to pursue the American dream, without the obstacles of poverty or bigotry.”