WASHINGTON — Crowds gathered on the National Mall on Wednesday under gray skies and drizzle to hear President Barack Obama — along with a slate of other speakers, including two former presidents and prominent civil rights leaders — commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, representing a symbolic moment in U.S. history.
On that day in 1963, when King and his fellow marchers attended what he labeled “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,” few in that crowd could have imagined that half a century later, an African-American president of the United States would mark the occasion with a speech in the same location.
Before Obama addressed the throngs gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, civil rights leaders past and present remembered the decades-long movement to secure equal treatment and rights for African-Americans.
“We marched. We sat. The triumphs, and even defeats, belong to us all,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. “Dr. King told us that he might not get to the mountaintop with us, but he said there is a promised land and America is that promised land for all us.”
Celebrities and entertainers at the event included Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, who star as husband and wife in one of the summer’s hottest movies, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” about life in the White House through the eyes of the (mostly black) hired help.
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