Bill Clinton spoke today at the Lincoln Memorial as part of observances to commemmorate the march on Washington 50 years ago. Yes, there’s gridlock, he said, but Martin Luther King Jr. faced worse. Reports Talking Points Memo:


“Oh, yes, we face terrible political gridlock now,” Clinton said in a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial. “Read a little history. It is nothing new. Yes, there remain racial inequality 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 any more and I would respectfully suggest that Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock,” he added. “It is time to start complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back.” 

President Obama’s speech is available at the White House website. It was a call to courage. Dangers today may not be the same as they were for civil rights marchers then, he said, but “the fierce urgency of now remains,” the same words King had invoked. He cited health care, poverty, education, gay rights and more touchstones. Progress has been made, but there are miles to go. He closed on an impassioned metaphorical note, borrowing generously from King:

Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day — that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship — you are marching. 

And that’s the lesson of our past. That’s the promise of tomorrow — that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. That when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.