Obama: Economic Opportunity Is 2nd Dimension of MLK's Dream

The president discusses the civil rights movement and challenges that America still faces today.
28:32 | 08/28/13

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Transcript for Obama: Economic Opportunity Is 2nd Dimension of MLK's Dream
For the -- -- -- Who. Sacrifice. And inspired so much. -- President Clinton. President Carter. Vice President Biden. -- Fellow Americans. Five decades -- go to bed. Americans came. To this honored place. Lay claim. To a promise made it -- are found. We call this -- it's. To be self out. It all -- -- -- The -- dollar by other creative. With certain unalienable rights. Among -- our life. -- The pursuit of happiness. In 1963. Almost 200 years after those words were set to -- A -- century after a great war was fought and emancipation. Proclaimed. Now promise. -- -- Remained on that. And Seoul. Became. The thousands. From every corner of our country. Men and women. Young and I hope. Blacks who longs for freedom them. Whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others. Across the land. Congregations. Sent the ball -- Peru and with -- In the middle of the night entire blocks of Harlem came out. To wish them well. With a few dollars -- grams -- from their labor. Some bought tickets and boarded buses. To debate could always -- where they want to -- Those would less modern picture act. Or walked. They were -- stresses. And steelworkers. Students. And teachers. May have some Pullman porters. They -- simple meals. And -- together on news. And then head. -- hot summer day. They assembled it. And our nation's capital. Under the shadow. The great emancipated. Offered testimony. Of injustice. To petition that. They're government for redress. -- awakened America's long slumbering conscience. We -- And best remembered. Doctor -- soaring oratory that day. How he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions. Party offered a salvation -- -- -- -- -- -- His words belong to Vegas. Possessing -- power and prophecy. Unmatched in our time. But we would do well -- called that day itself also belong to those ordinary street. Whose names never appeared. In the history books. Never got on TV. Many had gone to segregated schools and -- Segregated lunch counters. Live in towns where they couldn't vote. Considers where their votes didn't matter. There were couples and love who couldn't bear. Soldiers who fought for freedom abroad. The -- found that denied to them at home. That's -- loved ones being. Children fire -- May have every reason to lash out. Or resign themselves. To a bit of -- And yet. They chose a different -- In the face of hatred. They prayed. For their tormentors. In the face of violence. They -- And said -- With a moral force of nonviolence. -- way. They went to jail to protest -- -- loss. Theirselves. Swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime. -- dignity has had taught them that no man can take away the embrace the god brands. They've learned through hard experience. What Frederick Douglass once thought that freedom is not -- It must be one -- problem and discipline. Persistence and right. That was the spirit that brought here. That -- That was the spirit. Young people. Like John Lewis. Brought to that day. -- -- the spirit -- they carried with them. Like a torch back. To -- cities in their neighborhoods. That -- blame a conscience and courage. That would sustain them through the campaigns to come. To boycotts. And voter registration drives. Smaller marches -- from the spotlight. Through the loss of -- little girls in Birmingham. The carnage. -- Edmund pettis bridge. Negative. Dallas. California. Memphis. Through setbacks. And heart rates. And gnawing doubt. That flame of justice what. Never done. And because they can't march. America change. Because they marched -- civil rights law was passed. Because they marched. The voting rights Lowe's -- Because they -- doors of opportunity and education. Swung open -- their daughters and sons goodbye I'm imagine the life for themselves beyond watching somebody else -- longer. -- somebody else's shoes. Because they marched to city council's. Change that state legislatures changed it. Congress changed and yes. Eventually the White House saying. They marched America became more free. And more prayer not just for African Americans but for women and Latinos. Asians and native Americans. For Catholics Jews and Muslims. For today is. For Americans would. This bill. America changed for you and for me. And the entire world drew strength. From -- -- -- -- young people watched from the other side. Of an iron curtain. And would eventually tear down that wall. Where the young people inside South Africa. Would eventually end the scourge of -- Hello this. Are the victories they want. -- -- -- And hoping their hearts. -- the transformation that they wrong. With each step. Of their well -- orchards. That's the best -- I and millions of Americans hold those maids. Those laborers. Was porter's. -- secretaries. Folks who -- -- run a company admitted they had ever had a chance. Those white students who put themselves in harm's way. Even though they don't have to. -- -- -- -- Americans who would call their own internment both Jewish Americans. -- survived the Holocaust. People who could have given up and -- an end but kept on keeping -- knowing that. Even the -- for a night -- your. Come up in the morning. On the battlefield justice. Men and women without ring. Orwell or title or fame. Liberate us all. Where is our children now take for granted. -- people of all colors and creeds live together learn together. And walk to get. We fight alongside one another and love one and up. Judge one another by the content. -- care. In this greatest nation on -- To this mess. The magnitude of this progress. To suggest. There's some sometimes do that little has changed. And -- honors the courage. And sacrifice. Of those who pay the price to march -- Michael Schwerner and Martin Luther King Georgia. Their victory was right. But we want dishonor those heroes as well. To suggest that. The work of this nation is somehow complete. The -- of moral universe may bend towards justice but. That doesn't -- on its own. To secure the games this country has made it requires constant vigilance. Not complacency. Went by challenging those war -- new barriers to the -- Weren't sure of the scales of justice work equally brawl in the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline. From underfunded schools are overcrowded jails. It requires vigilance. And we'll suffer. The occasional setback. But we will win these -- This country -- change too much. People of good will regardless of party are too plentiful. For those. Within -- to change history's -- -- -- -- -- The securing of civil rights. Voting rights. Eradication of legalized. Discrimination. The very significance. Of these victims. You may have. Obscured. A second goal of the march. For the men and women who gathered. Fifty years ago. We're not -- in search of some abstract idea. They were there are seeking jobs as well as justice. Not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. But what does -- profit a man. Doctor King would ask him to say an integrated lunch counter. If you can't afford the million. This idea that that one's liberty is linked. To one's livelihood. But the pursuit of happiness requires. The dignity of work. The skills to find work. Decent paying some measure of material security this idea was not know. Lincoln himself understood the declaration of independence in such -- And the promise. That in due time. The weight. It's should be lifted from the shoulders of all -- And that all should have an equal chance. Doctor King explained -- the goals of African Americans. Identical to working people of all races. -- -- They're working conditions. Livable housing old age security health and welfare measures conditions in which families can grow have education for their children. And respected in the community. -- king was describing. Has been the dream of every America. It's what's -- for centuries new arrivals to our troops. And it's longer this sector of the match. -- economic opportunity. The chance -- -- total. -- advancing one station in life. But the goals for fifty years ago have fallen. Most short. Yes there have been examples of success within Black America that would have been unimaginable. A half century ago. -- -- -- noted black unemployment has remained almost twice as white -- But they don't want employment closed behind. The gap in wealth between races has not lessened. It's grown. As President Clinton indicated. The position of all working Americans regardless of color has -- Making the dream Doctor King describe even more -- For over a decade working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate even as corporate profits all. Even as the -- fortunate few explodes. And equality is steadily risen. Over the -- Upward mobility has become part. Too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets. The shuttle poverty casts a Pall over our -- their lives. A fortress of sub standard schools and diminish prospects. Inadequate health care. And perennial violence. And so as -- mark. This anniversary. We must remind ourselves that the measure progress for those who -- fifty years ago. Was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks. Of millionaires there was whether this country would -- that all people. People who -- willing to work hard regardless of race into the -- -- Hubble middle class life. The test was not and never have been. The doors of opportunity here cracked a bit wider for a few. Whether our economic system provides a better shot for the many. For the black custodian and the white -- The immigrant dishwasher. And the native American government. To win that battle. To answer them. -- This remains our great unfinished business. We shouldn't fool ourselves. The task one -- That's 1963 of the -- change. The twin forces of technology and global competition that's attracted those jobs that once provided a foothold. Into the middle class. Reduce the bargaining power of American workers. And our politics. Has suffered. Entrenched interests. And those who benefit from an unjust status quo. Resisted any government efforts to give working families -- -- area. Marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers. Targeted minimum wage increases are stronger labor laws -- tax. Thought -- -- recorded just upon the crumbling school that all these. Things violated sound economic principles. We'd be told that. Growing inequality was a price for a growing economy. Measure was. Free market. -- was -- And compassion in effect. And those without jobs or health care had only themselves to -- -- there were those elected. Officials who found it useful to practice -- politics of division. Doing their best to convince middle class Americans of a grade on through the government was somehow itself to blame for they're growing economic and security. The distant bureaucrats were taking their hard earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat -- the illegal immigrant. The men. If we're honest with ourselves. We'll admit that during the course of fifty years there were times when some of us player -- To push for change. Lost our way. Then portion of assassinations. Set off self defeating -- Legitimate grievances against police brutality. Tips and excuse making for criminal behavior. Racial politics to cut both ways. As the transformative message of punitive. And brotherhood was drowned out by the language. Recrimination. And what it once been a call for equality of opportunity. The chance for all Americans to work hard. And get ahead. It was too often framed. As a mere desire for government support. The we have no agency. In our own liberation. The pilot -- was an excuse for not raising your job. Bigotry of others was reason to give up -- -- All of that history. -- -- -- -- The -- hope was diverted. It's our country remained divided. But got no -- Just as was true in 96 -- were. We now have -- -- shorts. We can continue down our current path. In which the gears of this great democracy grind to a hall and our children except a life of lower expectations. Where politics is a zero sum game. Where do you do very well while struggling families of every race fight over shrinking economic -- that's one pet. Or we can have. The -- to check. The march on Washington teaches us that we are not cracked. By the mistakes of history. That we are masters of our -- But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be -- When we work together. We'll have to reignite the embers of empathy and elephant. The coalition of conscience. That found expression. In this place. Fifty years ago. I believe that spirit is there. That -- force inside each of us. I -- when what mother recognizes her own daughter in the face before -- I see it when the black -- thinks of his own grandfather. And the dignified steps. Of an elderly white men. It's there when. The native born recognizing. That's driving spirit of the new immigrant. When interracial couple connects the pain. Of a gay couple who were discriminated against and understands that as their own. That's where courage comes wrong. When we turned -- not from each other or on each other but towards one another and -- Do not walk alone that's more courage comes wrong. We can stand together. For good jobs and just -- us. -- that courage we can spend together. For the right to health care in the richest nation on earth -- person. Courage we can spend. Every child from the corner of the -- accustomed to the hills of Appalachia to get an education that started the mine and captures the spirit. -- for the world awaits them. -- that courage we can beat. Hungry and how the homeless. We transform. Bleep waste land the property in the fields of commerce. And promise. America I know the road will be loan. I know we can get that. Yes we will stumble. But I know we'll get back up. That's no movement happens. That's -- history bands. Tell when somebody. It's been -- somebody else -- the Malone says come home we're marching. Why so many who marched that day and in the days to come were young. For the younger I'm constrained by habits of -- I'm constrained by. The conventions of what is. He dared to dream differently to imagine something -- And I am convinced that -- imagination. -- -- -- -- Stars in this generation. We might not face the same dangers of 1963. Fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate. The swelling crowds and battling recession but nowadays so long ago no one can match -- brilliant but the same plane that -- The heart of all. More willing to take her first stop for just does not know that Lieberman's. -- -- Who gets the class early and stay as -- in -- and her own pocket to buy supplies because she believed it. Every child is -- charge. -- -- Worker has a better way demand. Often the shot doorman maybe -- An ex -- who. No cars allowed nor daughters -- -- -- that would. With a competent to walk through -- -- Gordon -- -- his son Jim margin. The father who realize visit the most important job we'll ever have -- resident -- right. Even if he didn't have a father this special let me -- and have a -- home. The battle scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to help them. Their fellow warriors stand again and walk again -- run again. But to keep serving their country when they come home they are marching. Every one. Who realizes what those glorious victories -- one -- The change does not come from Washington but to Washington. The change you've always been built upon our willingness to -- the people that take on the mantle of citizenship you are marching. And that's the lesson of our -- that's. The promise. Of tomorrow. In the face of impossible all. People who love their country concerned. When millions of Americans of every race and -- region. Everybody at every station can join together in a spirit of brotherhood that -- mounds will be metal. And those rough places well be made plain. And those broken places -- right now towards grace. Then we will vindicate the bank of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our -- as one nation under god indivisible. -- liberty and justice brawl. President Barack Obama playing the role of teacher and preacher and president today. He told the story of that march 15 years ago August from 1962. Electrified. Martin Luther King. He said it is now the -- -- all of -- -- key area. The work of those heroes. From fifteen years ago Cindy did not die in -- there's been so much progress in this country over the last fifteen years but there's still so much work to do.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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