Leading thousands of marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL, President Barack Obama paid tribute to the men and women that stood their ground in the face of violent attacks March 7, 1965 in an act of courage that helped pave the way for the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia, former President George W. Bush and wife Laura, Congressman John Lewis who marched in Selma in 1965, other members of Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus, Obama delivered a historic speech at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday on Saturday, March 7.
“In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war, the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow, the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – all that history met on this bridge,” Obama said.
Recognizing the political, economic, and social power of the 1965 march, he said “the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African-Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities, from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Oval Office.”
Obama also referenced the modern-day attacks on voting rights and a recent Department ofJustice report that found unconstitutional abuse of Blacks by Ferguson police.
“This nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us,” he said.
Obama spoke directly to the young people who were present to witness the historic event, including four students from the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland who accompanied Congresswoman Barbara Lee for an impressionable experience.
“It is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow,” he said.
Speaking on the weekend’s commemoration event, Congresswoman Lee said, “We must rededicate ourselves to persistently working for progress, equality and justice.”
Sharing the same sentiment on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Obama said, “If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done.”