TERRE HAUTE —
As Americans, we have no shortage of collective victories to celebrate, whether they be recent or part of our storied past. Likewise, we do not lack in collective challenges. In a society as large, diverse and complex as ours, there is little time to rest in the pursuit of justice and equality.
On Wednesday, America paused to observe the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington, D.C., during which civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
King’s words that day, when viewed in the context of the times, were a call to action on all fronts of the battle for minority rights. But the short, poignant speech is now viewed in a larger context, much like some of the great historical speeches delivered by social and political leaders of the past such as Abraham Lincoln.
Much has changed for the better since King delivered his speech, although he was assassinated five years later as he pressed his nonviolent crusade across the country. He would certainly recognize today that America is a better place, while quickly acknowledging that more can and should be done to ensure fairness for all, whether it be in the workplace, voting place or judicial system.
Racism still exists, even though it now takes on more subtle forms. But the strides made in terms of economic progress and opportunity for minorities the past 50 years are immeasurable. Look no further than the White House, where our first African American president is serving his second term in the highest office on the land.
In Terre Haute and other Hoosier and Midwestern cities, African Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups now find more equal representation on public and private sector boards and in administrations. Meanwhile, there are many active individuals and groups whose causes are justice, fairness and equality on all fronts.
There is no reason for complacency, however. We would be naive to look past real problems that plague our communities. But King shared his dream in a rousing speech 50 years ago to inspire and lead the change this country needed. Much has been accomplished in advancing his cause. For that, we observe the occasion and acknowledge the progress.