The dedication ceremony today for the Dr. King Memorial in Washington DC was both a moving tribute to our history and completely relevant for today's headlines, given the ongoing struggle worldwide for civil rights and freedom as President Obama stood in testimony of the advancements America has made, and reminded us of the long journey still ahead.
"Nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work -- Dr. King's work -- is not yet complete," President Barack Obama said at the dedication ceremony.
The nation faces many challenges, he said, including an ailing economy, substandard education, war and tragedy.
Progress, he said, can often be a slow and painful process. During the civil rights movement, "progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses. It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats." Every victory was met with setbacks and defeat, Obama said. Today's America can draw strength from that struggle, from King's belief that we are one people and from his refusal to give up, the president said.
"Let us not be trapped by what is," Obama said. "We can't be discouraged by what is. We've got to keep pushing for what ought to be."
He noted that King "will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it. A black preacher, no official rank or title, somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideas."
"I know we will overcome," the president said. "I know there are better days ahead. I know this because of the man towering over us."
And almost 50 years after Dr. King marched on Washington, people are once again in the streets wondering where we went wrong, and how far we've strayed from his ideals. America is a better place, but even with the nation's first African-American president, we have a brutally long journey ahead of us.
It puts the events of the last five years or so into sharp perspective, doesn't it?