On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd of a quarter million people gathered on the National Mall. Among them was 19 year old Angus King, then a student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Today, 50 years later, Senator Angus King (I-ME) again returned to the National Mall to join in a ceremony with President Obama, former Presidents Clinton and Carter, as well as many other dignitaries, to commemorate the very history he witnessed. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Senator King spoke to a crowd of thousands in honor of the March on Washington, the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his resounding words of faith, hope, and justice that profoundly altered the course of American history.
"Fifty years ago today this place was a battlefield. No shots were fired, no cannons roared, but a battlefield nonetheless -- a battlefield of ideas, the ideas that define us as a nation," Senator King said. "As it was once said of Churchill, Martin Luther King on that day mobilized the English language and marched it into war, and in the process caught the conscience of a nation. And here today on these steps, 50 years on, indeed something abides, and the power of the vision has surely passed into our souls."
Below is a transcript of Senator King's remarks, as delivered:
"Fifty years ago Americans marched to this place. They came from the northeast, from the west, from the midwest, and they came from the south. They came by rail, they came by bus, they came by car, one even roller-skated here from Chicago. They slept the night before in buses, in cars, on friends' floors, and in churches.
"Fifty years ago this morning we started in small rivulets of people on the side streets of this great city. We joined together in larger streams, moving toward the main arteries of Washington. Then we came together in a mighty river of people down to this place. Old, young, black, white, Protestant, Catholic, and Jew. We stopped at the Washington Monument and heard Peter, Paul, and Mary sing of the Hammer of Justice and the Bell of Freedom.
"Fifty years ago Americans came to this place around a radical idea, an idea at the heart of the American experience. An idea new to the world in 1776, tested in 1865, renewed in 1963, and an idea still new and radical today: all men and women are created equal. All men and women are created equal.
"Fifty years ago at this place, at this sacred place, Americans sent a message to their leaders and around the world, that the promise of equality of opportunity, equality before the law, equality in the right to freely participate in the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship, applied to everyone in this country -- not just the lucky few of the right color or the accident of birth. This is what Martin Luther King meant when he said that his dream was deeply rooted in the American dream.
"And 150 years ago -- 150 years ago this summer -- a mighty battle was fought not far from this place. And this idea, the idea of equality, the idea of America, hung in the balance. One of the soldiers on those hot July days was a young college professor from Maine named Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. And returning to the battlefield at Gettysburg many years later, he expressed the power of the place, where such momentous deeds were done. Here is what he said. Here is what Joshua Chamberlain said:
"In great deeds something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and past bodies disappear, but spirits linger to consecrate the ground for the vision-place of souls. Generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to this deathless place, to ponder and dream. And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence will wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision shall pass into their souls.'
"Fifty years ago today this place was a battlefield. No shots were fired, no cannons roared, but a battlefield nonetheless -- a battlefield of ideas, the ideas that define us as a nation. As it was once said of Churchill, Martin Luther King on that day mobilized the English language and marched it into war, and in the process caught the conscience of a nation. And here today on these steps, 50 years on, indeed something abides, and the power of the vision has surely passed into our souls."