Transcript for Roundtable: Remembering the Dream
thank god, almighty, we are free at last. Incredible. Byron is here with us now. George, this was really one of the defining moments of the 20th century. It was. Martin luther king said rightly, he appropriated american rhetoric, saying, I'm not trying to change america, I'm trying to reconnect with the american past. And in that sense, he did a wonderful job. Well, you know, the whole idea of forming a more perfect union. Over the centuries, we have tried to perfect this union. This was a moment of really trying to perfect it. Mightily. But there was tremendous fear. I remember it very well. My father was majority whip of the congress at the time, a deep southerner, very close with president kennedy. Ane fear of violence that was -- that was palpable, and the fear that it would ruin the cause of civil rights. That was the real terror. But it was also for a little girl, I was not yet 4 when i watched it at home with my grandmother who was with us. And to hear those words free at last, free at last, and to believe that at some point life would be better, that things would change, and to have witnessed the amount of change I've seen in my 50-plus years, it's amazing, it's incredible. And yet if dr. King were alive, he would still be marching today, to raise the minimum wage, ensure workers could organize, marching for the same values that he marched for 50 years ago. No question, right, byron? Without a doubt. In talking to john lewis, he talks about how the dream lives. Only a down payment has been made. Very focused on jobs. But there's an optimistic spirit to congressman lewis and andy young, men who were there. They talk about, for instance, the numbers about employment and poverty, one number, for instance, in 1963, there were on 365,000 blacks with a college degree, today there are 5.1 million. Consider in 1963, you all could have treated us like dogs, donna, it would have been okay. Nothing would have happened to you. That's changed in america. For those men who were there, who bled, they see tremendous progress. And they're right. They're right. You know, having grown up in the deep south in the era of jim crow, the difference is dramatic. And the fact that andy young is mayor of atlanta, and john lewis is a member of congress from georgia. It's a testament to the fact that when you do something like pass a voting rights bill, that it makes a difference. Which is why, at the moment, what's going on about voting rights, is downright evil because it is something that really needs to keep going forward, not backward. We remember that day for the speech and for the size of the crowds. And the peacefulness of it. We forget that this was the march for jobs and justice. When life magazine did its cover after this, they didn't put martin luther king on the cover, they put randolph on the cover. There has been tremendous progress, no question about that, in all the ways we are talking about. But the persistence of the gap between white wealth and black wealth, white income, black income, is something that has stayed almost constant for the last two decades. That's to which you refer were foreshadowed by something that happened eight months after the march. Eight months later, a young social scientist from harvard working in the labor department published a report. His name was daniel patrick moynahan. He said there's a crisis in the african-america community because 24% of african-american women. Today it's tripled to 72%. And that, not an absence of rights is surely the biggest impediment. It will be incredible to see president obama giving a speech from the very spot. A dangerous thing to do, easy to be overshadowed. But it's interesting, there is pessimism even among african-americans about what's happened under president obama. Look at this poll from pew just this week, 26% of african-americans say the situation for black people has improved over the past five years. 21% say it's gotten worse over the past five years. We have to look at great recession of the last few years that has left african-american families devastated, black wealth has dropped even more because of the deepness of the recession. And the fact that black unemployment is still in double digits while overall unemployment continues to inch down. There are critical issues that the african-american community must continue to address. Clearly education being the most important passport out of poverty. The criminal justice system that takes too many of our young lives and then they disappear. Impacting the black family itself. But there's no questions. 50 years later, with a black, biracial president standing before the american people declaring that the dream is still alive. We're almost out of time. I do have to ask, dan, the washington post the day after this, this was the front page of the washington post the day after the march. There are few words you will not see on that entire front page. One of them is martin luther king and another is I have a dream. They missed the lead. We blew the story. We missed it. We blew the story. I looked at new york times front story from the day after, and they had the whole thing on the front page, and we didn't. And -- but I think part of it was there was an obsession about the violence. Right. And king was the last speaker. We know sometimes the last speaker gets ignored when they shouldn't. If you don't change signals at the right moment, you look bad in history. And john lewis is forever grateful that king was the last speaker. Having to speak after that would have been too much. We are out of time.
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