WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will lead the civil rights pioneers of today and two of his presidential predecessors Wednesday in a celebrative but solemn commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech of yesteryear, saluting his fight for equal opportunity.
Large crowds thronged to the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial where King, with a soaring, rhythmic oratory and a steely countenance, pleaded with Americans to come together to stomp out racism and create a land of opportunity for all.
Slate-gray skies and a light drizzle greeted the earliest arrivals for an observance that seemed likely to take on a more formal, serious tone, than a commemorative rally last Saturday. People eager to get a close-up view of Obama and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton clustered at a security checkpoint. And National Guard troops were arrayed along fence lines encircling the Mall from the World War II Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial.
In reacting to the anniversary celebration, here are the reflections of South Florida lawmakers:
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida
“I have taken my own children to the Lincoln Memorial, and shown them where Dr. King spoke to the unfulfilled promise of our nation. Standing in that place, I was filled with pride to know my children live in a nation where the cultural landscape is dramatically different from the one that Dr. King saw just 50 years before.Dr. King reminded us that opportunity and freedom are American ideals, belonging to no singular demographic. His message and legacy must live all around us, and his dream must continue to lead us as we move toward America’s brightest days.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar
“The countless sacrifices and efforts of previous generations have made it possible for blacks and other minority groups to break longstanding boundaries in our society and excel. When I look back on my lifetime, I am still awestruck at how a young boy who grew up in a poor Jim Crow Florida town could grow up to become a Member of Congress for the very same state and live to see the time of an African American president in White House. It has been a true blessing to bear witness to these extraordinary times and, while the struggle to achieve equality for all continues, it is remarkable to reflect on the progress that we have made as a nation over the past half-century.
“As we mark this historic anniversary, let us remember those who sacrificed so much in the name of freedom. We must never forget our history and what the civil rights movement represents. Today, I join with Americans everywhere in paying tribute to all those who keep the spirit of the civil rights movement alive, and look forward to the day when prejudice and hatred have finally been abolished from our nation forever.”
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Boca Raton
“Today the march continues forward: Forward towards good living wages for anyone willing to put in a hard day’s work; Forward towards citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans living in the shadows; Forward towards the right of any person to live in a committed relationship with the one they love; Forward towards shorter voting lines and easy access to ballot boxes. Forward towards all our children being safe on our streets and free from stand your ground justice Martin Luther King Jr. left us too early, but today and each and every day it is up to all of us to continue the march towards justice and equality for all.”