Mr. Christopher Colford~~
Congratulations, Rick — and many thanks to you and John for sharing this eloquent essay with the group.
This is an important message for all of us today,
as Americans struggle to re-energize our willpower and spur the gridlocked political system:
“The success of the March on Washington and those other movements carry a lesson for today’s America, mired as we are in polarized, gridlocked politics, dominated by big money and special interest lobbies. . . .
“Millions of Americans in the 1960s and 1970s believed in the power of ordinary people. They believed that by acting together, they could shape the nation’s agenda and influence government policies. . . .
“They generated a period of unprecedented citizen activism that helped foster the most widely shared economic prosperity of the past seven decades and a much fairer version of American democracy. . . .
“That is a lesson we should take to heart — that by taking action ourselves, We the People can change the nation’s destiny and our own.”
A Lesson from the March on Washington
By Hedrick Smith
August 27, 2013
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, former Pulitzer Prize-winningNew York Times reporter and editor Hedrick Smith reflects on the message we learned that day.
From the Lincoln Memorial, a great mass of humanity stretched away toward the spire of the Washington Monument. The March on Washington, 200,000 strong, was the largest protest army ever seen up to that time in the nation’s capital — a movement with historic impact and a message for us today, 50 years later.
The mood of that throng, as I mingled among them, was a surprise. People were determined, but not angry. They had come, yes, to protest against racial and economic discrimination, but also to celebrate. They had come to stake their claim to American democracy and to test whether People
Power could move a Congress and a President to expand the boundaries of freedom in America.
Like many in the crowd, I was fresh from the racial flashpoints — most recently, from Birmingham where the Gaston Motel, home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his team, had been bombed, sending towers of flame high into the dark night sky. King and his aides were away that night, but the explosion triggered hours of angry black rioting, brick throwing, and police tear gas. The next day, President Kennedy had called out the troops to restore calm and order.
Fearful of such racial violence in Washington, the Kennedy White House had tried to get the March leaders to call it off. But they refused and now the Powers-That-Be were braced for danger.
They misjudged the moment. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a gentle army, schooled in the discipline of non-violence and now bent on the larger cause of moving not southern mayors but the national government.
In the pink dawn of August 28, 1963, long caravans of overnight buses rolled in to Washington from New England, New York and the Middle West, bringing tens of thousands of sympathizers, whites and blacks together, gathered to show solidarity with the front-line activists in the South.
From Dixie came the shock troops of the civil rights movement — carloads of sit-in students from Nashville and Greensboro, N.C.; Freedom Riders who had dared to ride desegregated buses into Montgomery, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi, braving axe-handles and fire bombs from the Ku Klux Klan; and legions of street marchers who had defied the police dogs and billy clubs of Jim Crow all across the Old Confederacy.
There were the organizers of the March, the black labor leader A. Philip Randolph and his aide, Bayard Rustin; the fiery young activists of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee like John Lewis, Julian Bond, and Diane Nash; and the ministers from King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, including the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth who had been slammed into a wall and hospitalized by the cannon-like jet streams of police fire hoses in Birmingham.
But for all their bruises, the crowd that day was in a hopeful, upbeat, almost festive mood. Many people had arrived hours early and took time to picnic on the Mall. Some played with children or lolled under the trees. Others spread blankets in the sun; fathers, dozing off, folded newspapers over their eyes. The event began with the sunny air of a mass picnic.
But as the event gained momentum, it became clear this was no picnic. It was history in the making — a festival of democracy, a mass celebration of People Power, appealing to Washington to mend past injustice.
A string of speakers called for economic as well as racial justice. But what is indelibly imprinted in the national memory are the anguished cadences of Martin Luther King’s soaring peroration. Again and again, he cried out: “I have a Dream. . . . I have a Dream. . . . I have a Dream that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. . . .”
But in a more impatient and less remembered passage, King was insistent. Blacks had come to Washington, he declared, “to cash a check . . . a promissory note” from the Founding Fathers “that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’” No more delay, King insisted to resounding cheers, We the People feel “the fierce urgency of now.” A year later, Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act desegregating public travel and accommodations.
What is less appreciated now is that the March on Washington and the civil rights movement from which it sprang epitomized an era when People Power — grass roots citizen action — won many political victories in Washington.
A women’s movement fought for better pay and won a law on equal economic rights. A consumer’s movement, sparked by author-activist Ralph
Nader, demanded and got consumer safety laws and more honest product labeling. A then-powerful labor movement achieved a social compact for good jobs, steady raises, and company-paid health and retirement benefits. In April 1971, 20 million Americans, angered by the pollution of America’s air and waterways, went into the streets and won a stream of environmental laws from Congress and Republican President Richard Nixon. A peace movement helped end the Vietnam War.
The success of the March on Washington and those other movements carry a lesson for today’s America, mired as we are in polarized, gridlocked politics, dominated by big money and special interest lobbies.
Unlike most Americans today, who feel ignored by Washington and powerless to change that situation, millions of Americans in the 1960s and 1970s believed in the power of ordinary people. They believed that by acting together, they could shape the nation’s agenda and influence government policies.
Average Americans felt confident that they counted politically. Acting on that confidence, they generated a period of unprecedented citizen activism that helped foster the most widely shared economic prosperity of the past seven decades and a much fairer version of American democracy.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, that is a lesson we should take to heart — that by taking action ourselves, We the People can change the nation’s destiny and our own.
Hedrick Smith is the former Washington Bureau Chief of
The New York Times and author of the current bestseller Who Stole the American Dream?, from which this article is adapted
Mr. Daniel Martinez~~
Schoolboys are taught that Jacob’s Golden Ladder grows slippery at the top~and that many an unlucky angel has made that long, long drop. This Biblical and physical, allusion today made secular and metaphysical by our good friend Mr. Hedrick Smith and others~suggests a troubling question~how can a rich country rather suddenly become a poor country and the reaction of the citizens appears to be~apathy. Yes, Apathy. Apathy.
I must say that I am at a loss, gentlemen, yes, at a complete loss~~to understand how a rich man can be deprived of his riches and, more so yet, denied access to the Golden Ladder at top of which he might reclaim his treasure~~and his reaction is~~apathy??
I am not a Board Certified therapist but I must say that this reaction begs all layman’s credulity~~yes, Sir~~ all of his credulity. How is it conceivably possible that a man could have both his wealth and the mechanism to reclaim it taken from him and he is apathetic?
Not possible, gentlemen~~simply not possible. There is something else at play here~~something more dastardly rotten in the Land of the Danes than appears to us on first blush.
What could it be?
I will say here again, as I say in every forum~~not withstanding differences of style and emphasis, both the men of the left and of the right here gathered will let out a hearty cheer to a platform of two parts~~the only issues of consequence now needed to restore American wealth, vitality, morality, happiness and ambition~~
~~To flood the country with good paying jobs~~principally via the forced repatriation of all off shored American productive enterprise.
And~~of co-equal weight~
~~A swift and savage end to the irrepressible, rapacious, ceaseless, American War Machine.
To do these two~~simple~~things is a moral imperative sans pariel~and it likewise will quickly put an end to apathy because Jacob’s Golden Ladder will once again glisten and glitter before the eyes of Americans now apathetic~~
There is no motivator quite like GOLD, gentlemen.~~
It is not so much the lack of gold itself, but rather the lack of access to the golden ladder~that so vexes the Americans~~
Rejoice and Glad!!
~~THEOS EK MĒCHANĒS~~
JOHN DANIEL BEGG
Washington, District of Columbia
Thursday, 29h Aout, Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, 2013~
John Daniel Begg
JOHN DANIEL BEGG
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