An event today signifies how far the United States has come in the realm of equality for all Americans, but a speech by the first black president on the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was set to also mark how much more there is to do.
During a short presentation Monday evening during the Bradley County Democratic Party Heritage Dinner, the Rev. Edward Robinson talked briefly about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“That speech helped us to bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but there are still some things that are left undone, still on the agenda,” Robinson said. “One of the things I remember clearly that Martin Luther King talked about was there was a check that hadn’t been cashed.”
The check was never cashed, not because of insufficient funds, but from a lack of caring for those who were less fortunate, Robinson said.
“Immigration reform is still out there on the agenda,” he said.
Robinson said through analogy that since the Voting Rights Act was passed, someone has tried tampering with the voting machine; someone has worked on it.
“I don’t know if it was broken and it needed fixing or just needed to be oiled. Maybe it needs to be talked about or explained a little better, made a little easier. For those who are getting a little older, it ought not to be hard for you to vote. It ought to be made easier for you to come to the polls and vote,” he said.
He questioned how old someone must be to have the right to vote.
“I don’t think that right ought to be taken from you. I think you should have a right to vote for who you want to vote for,” Robinson said.
The senior pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church said it makes no difference which race, how tall or how heavy
political representatives are, as long as they have the interests of “us down here in mind.”
He said, “If we really want to make a difference, we’ve got to forget about the differences you see in me and look at the difference we can make together and let us go forward in that manner.
“But, if we’re still going to make race and ethnicity the issue, then the real issue will never get tended to. It’s easy to close the door after the horse has left the barn. What we need to do is learn to take care of the horse while it is still in the stable.”
According to reports from The Associated Press, the final refrain of King’s most famous speech will echo around the world as bells from churches, schools and historical monuments “let freedom ring” in celebration of a powerful moment in civil rights history.
Organizers said people at more than 300 sites in nearly every state will ring their bells at 3 p.m. their time or at 3 p.m. EDT, the hour when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. A ceremony on Lookout Mountain, mentioned in King’s speech, was among the events planned.
Commemorations are planned from the site of the speech in Washington to the far reaches of Alaska, where participants plan to ring cow bells along with church bells in Juneau.
On Aug. 28, 1963, as King was wrapping up his speech at the Lincoln Memorial, he quoted from the patriotic song “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”
King implored his audience to “let freedom ring” from the hilltops and mountains of every state in the nation, some of which he cited by name in his speech.
“When we allow freedom to ring — when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, we are free at last,” King said in closing.