Let’s keep moving forward
by Larry Sutton Guest columnist
These last few days have seen the national spotlight placed on the remembrance of the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the largest civil rights gathering in history at that time, which culminated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. That span of 50 years took me from being a 13-year-old eighth-grader attending a segregated school to being a 63-year-old retired high school history teacher, making me an eyewitness to much change and progress.
As a 13-year-old teenager, much of my knowledge of the March on Washington has come from the annals of history, for I do not have any vivid recollections of that historic event. I was probably working in tobacco on the farm of the man, a model of self-help, who to this very day remains my greatest source of inspiration — my grandfather Jacob Sutton.
However, as a high school teacher, the Civil Rights Movement, including the March on Washington, was one of my favorite topics in teaching U.S. history and African-America studies. As one journalist said, the March on Washington was “a day the capital will remember.”
Not only does 2013 mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it is also the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the first official step in freeing the American slaves.
While remembering these historic events, the American people have had an opportunity to assess how much progress America has made in becoming “a more perfect nation,” debating how far we’ve come, how far we’ve yet to go, and the kind of country we want for generations to come.
It’s abundantly clear that we’ve come a long way since 1963, and 50 years later, there is still a need for people of good will to come together to renew that passion for justice, continuing that dream that was so much a part of the King legacy.
We should all be expressing more outrage at the inequalities in our criminal justice system which drains the motivation for many young men to succeed. Fifty years later, economic justice is still far away with poverty widespread, the chasm separating the “haves” and the “have-nots” widening and the unemployment gap persisting.
I am hopeful that on this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the people involved in the private sector of our economic engine will seek to change these conditions. In your interactions with each other, talk more about diversity, equity and a belief in second chances, keeping in mind that our country’s history “is there for all to read.”
Now, going forward, there is still a need to level the playing field by lending a hand in support of making America a more equal society. Will you become one of those new “north stars” to continue guiding the nation on the pathway to becoming “a more perfect union?” Will you be the next generation of torchbearers in creating that passion that will keep us moving forward?
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