Former President Bill Clinton hailed the heroes of the civil rights movement and called for an end to the gridlock that has paralyzed American politics, during his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
“This march and that speech changed America,” Clinton said of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. “They opened minds, they melted hearts and they moved millions, including a 17-year-old boy watching alone in his home in Arkansas.”
“What a debt we owe to those people who came here 50 years ago,” Clinton continued.
“Yes, there remain racial inequalities in employment, income, health, wealth, incarceration, and in the victims and perpetrators of violent crime. But we don’t face beatings, lynchings and shootings for our political beliefs anymore,” he said. “And I would respectfully suggest that Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock. It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back. ”
The former president went on to address several of the contemporary issues about which Americans are bitterly divided, including economic inequality, education, health care reform, gun reform, and voting rights.
“A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon,” Clinton declared to loud applause from the huge crowd on the National Mall.
President Clinton’s speech can be seen in its entirety below. A transcript of the speech is available here.