Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Good morning, everyone. As a Member of the leadership of the Congress of the United States, it is my official privilege to welcome so many of you to Washington, D.C., to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I join [my] colleagues, and associate myself with the remarks of those from Congress who have spoken before me. That’s officially. Personally, it is my personal pleasure to be here with each and every one of you because I was here 50 years ago.
“So, who among you is going to be the next Speaker of the House [of Representatives], the President of the United States, or whatever? You’re a beautiful sight to behold. And at that time, 50 years ago, we heard Dr. King inspire us with the ‘I Have a Dream’ part of his speech. The part that was a call to action was the ‘fierce urgency of now’ part of his speech. In that time, Dr. King says: ‘We refuse to take the tranquility drug of gradualism; we must move forward.’ And forward we will.
“So it was fiercely urgent then, it certainly is now. Fifty years ago, there were only five African-American Members of the House of Representatives. There was no Congressional Black Caucus. Today, there are 43 Members. We want more. But there are 43 African American Members. And they are led by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, whom you heard from, and they are the Conscience of the Congress. And in the [Congressional] Black Caucus we have the privilege of serving with [Congressman] John Lewis, some of us for over 25 years in the Congress. And aren’t we proud of that? But I also want to mention that 50 years ago, though he was not a Member of Congress at the time, [Congressman] John Conyers was one of three people invited to the White House to meet with President John F. Kennedy, following the Civil Rights March – the March for Jobs, Justice, and Freedom. He was with us.
“Fifty years ago, we had the first Catholic President in the White House. Today, we have the first African-American President and the first African-American first family leading our country so beautifully from the White House.
“You know, we come together here at a time when there is a monument to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. on the [National] Mall. Here he sits with Presidents of the United States, so appropriately. We have a day set aside as a national holiday to celebrate his birthday. But he would want us to celebrate him, his birth, and his legacy by acting upon his agenda, by realizing the dream, by making the minimum wage a living wage, by having not just family and medical leave, but paid sick leave for our workers, [and] by having quality, affordable child care so that our families, the power of women can be unleashed in our economy and in our society. And do you know what? This just happens to be women’s equality weekend. When women succeed, America succeeds.
“When people of color succeed, America succeeds. He would also want us to be fighting for voting rights. Certainly we must pass a bill in the Congress to correct what the Supreme Court did. But we must also ensure that every person who is eligible to vote can vote, and that their vote would be counted. When I was here 50 years ago, people said – oh, and that includes voting rights for the District of Columbia.
“When I was here 50 years ago, people said: ‘What do you remember most?’ And the music is playing, so I’ll say this, Dr. King said this 50 years ago. The music of the March, the harmony of the Civil Rights Movement, the notes of Dr. King’s inspirational words must continue to inspire us, to compose as Dr. King said on that August afternoon: ‘A beautiful symphony of brotherhood.’
“Are you ready to beat the drum for that beautiful symphony of brotherhood? Are you ready to realize the dream?
“Thank you all very much.”