Today, I and thousands of others will return to the site of one of the most iconic events in American history to celebrate its 50 year anniversary.
In 1963, as a quarter-million people marched for civil and economic justice, a variety of civil and religious leaders took the stage to address the crowd and call on the government to build a society that lived up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence: that all men are created equal.
One man’s words have echoed through time, inspiring so many to work towards building a world when all are judged by their actions, not appearance:
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have
a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning
of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”...
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they
will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., didn’t just intend his words to be a source of inspiration. He intended them to call us to action.
Today, 50 years after Dr. King summoned us all to the cause of justice and righteousness, there is still work to be done. There are still barriers that create inequality, prejudices that prevent a full welcome to the stranger. Catholic Charities agencies continue to be on the front line providing service to alleviate the effects of many inequities, and also to attack them at their source.
As we look for inspiration to help us on the difficult path ahead of us today in our work to reduce poverty, Dr. King’s words and legacy stand as a constant reminder of the power of faith, hope, and love to create a more just and compassionate world. Dr. King understood in his core that the work of charity and the work of justice were not two separate concepts, but were inherently linked. His life was a witness for the urgent call of justice that we all must feel.
In sharing his dream with the nation, he knew there was no space more symbolic and powerful than our nation’s capital. His example shows us the importance of serving as advocates for the poor and marginalized, whatever their situation, and his legacy is an enduring reminder of the power of the faithful in the public square.
The way ahead can seem difficult. But the light that guides us that was lit 50 years ago today still burns brightly.