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tv   Selma March 50th Anniversary  CSPAN  December 29, 2015 9:15pm-10:26pm EST

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live coverage on american history television, on c-span3. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, please
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welcome the president of ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the president of the united states and mrs. michelle obama accompanied by president bush and mrs. laura bush and congressman john lewis.
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[ cheers and applause ] >> good afternoon again. i have the distinct pleasure of introducing the alabama state governor. >> president obama, mrs. obama,
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president bush, mrs. bush, congressman lewis, congressman sewell, mayor evans, it's an honor for me to be on the stage with you today and to welcome all of these people to this great state of alabama. it's a personal honor for me to join in today's historic occasion of the edmond petis bridge that has become a monument in itself to the struggle for civil rights over the past 50 years. this bridge represents the strength of the determination, the loss and the pain that have come to define the civil rights movement in america. and it's an honor for me to stand here among you today on behalf of the state of alabama. 50 years ago, demand the right to vote.
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those marchers have a bowl of visions. stood poised at center stage as a series of historical events unfolds around us as the fight for civil rights in one of its hardest struggles right here in this bridge. as the right to montgomery was met with violence. we've all seen the edges and heard the stories of those men and women who desired the right to vote. this nation was founded by men of many missions and backgrounds. it was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. in 1965, the rights of man were threatened because every man did not have the right to vote.
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leaders like dr. martin luther king, and my good friend, congressman lewis and so many of you who were involved in this movement. we need more men and women who are not afraid to stand up and work for what they believe in. alabama is a different state today than it was in 1965. and so is our nation. we've come along way since the events of that bloody sunday. selma changed america. selma changed the world. today, we honor the memory, the work and the sacrifice of those who saw a better vision for our state and our country. and it is extremely important for younger generations to know about the sacrifices that were made on this bridge and in the
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entire civil rights movement. but we choose toe look beyond those ugly scars and focus on what alabama really is and what it can be. alabama is my sweet home. i was raised here and i have a great love and respect for all of the people who call themselves alabamaians. it's a place where economic opportunity abounds and there are good-paying jobs for our people and where our children can get a good education. children of all backgrounds. alabama is a place where neighbors love and care for one another and they work together on issue that is are important to all of us. so while we look back at a difficult chapter in alabama's history,it's important that we write a new chapter together where opportunities exist for everyone, regardless of race, our religion, our politics.
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as we reflect on the past 50 years, i think it's important to ask what will alabama look like. what will our nation look like 50 years from now. that's up to our people. it's up to our leaders. it's up to those who have a bold vision that make america and alabama better and stronger than it was in 1965. as leaders, may we never lose vision or the boldness to do great things, no matter how hard the struggle is. for without vision, the people may perish. 50 years ago, the eyes of the world were on alabama. today, i invite you to look at alabama again. our state is a place where we can all call sweet home, alabama.
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may god bless this great nation and may god bless this great state of alabama forever. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> good afternoon, america. welcome to my hometown of selma. to president and mrs. bush, to president and mrs. obama, to all of you, it is, indeed, a great day to be in selma, alabama. as a daughter of selma, i have crossed this bridge many times. many times i have felt the weight carried by the brave foot soldiers of the voting rights movement. and many times i have thanked
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them for their courage that they displayed in the face of extreme hatred. i first began to understand the history of the edmond petis bridge when i was five years old. my mom started to explain to me the events that took place on that bridge. it was hard for me to understand what it was like to drink from a separate water fountain. that was not something i nigh. my selma was fully integrated. my selma nurtured me. my selma led me to believe that a little black girl could achieve any of her dreams. i was free to dream my dreams because of the courage of those foot soldiers that crossed the edmond petis bridge. they dared to con front a wall of alabama state troopers.
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there is unfinished business. [ applause ] >> you belieunfinished business voting rights movement. it is important for all of us to know that the story of selma is the story of america. it's america's struggle. it tells us that ordinary americans can collectively work to achieve extraordinary social change. the cause is still important today. and, as we as americans we must become ever-individual lent to protect the games of the past and expand and promote their legacy. selma is now. every generation faces its
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social and political struggles. there is much work to be done. as many people passed her in the hall, they would say mrs. boington, we stand on your shoulders, we stand on your shoulders. she looked up and said get off my shoulders, there's plenty of work to do. so i say to you, america, there's plenty of work to do. may we all leave selma more clear, inspired by those foot soldiers to continue fighting for liberty and justice for all. now, i have the great honor of introducing someone that i did not know how to address when i first came to congress.
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>> he is a civil rights icon. and a little black girl from selma stands in her shadow. it is because of you, john, that so many of us get to walk the halls of congress. get to sit in the oval office. it is because of you, john, and your bravery and the bravery of those foot soldiers. it is because of your bravery and the bravery of those foot soldiers that i get to be alabama's first african american congresswoman. to say thank you is not enough. let me just say we know that we have unfinished business to do, john. and i promise, we know there's much work to do. i present to you the civil rights icon, john lewis.
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>> thank you, my sister, my colleague, for those kind words of introduction. my beloved brothers and sisters. members of the american family understate we as a nation have a great deal to be thankful for. jimmy lee jackson, jimmy lee jackson whose death inspired the selma march along with so many others did not make to see this day. but you and i are here, we can
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bear witness to the distance we have come and the progress we've made in 50 years and we must use its moment to recommit ourselves to do all we can to finish a work. there's still work left to be done. get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of america. now, i want to thank president barack obama and mrs. obama, president george bush and mrs. bush for being here today. i want to thank all of the members of the cab net and the administration who are here, my colleagues and the congress, all the elected officials, including the great mayor of selma, george
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evans. i would like all the members of the congress and our delegation just to stand. >> thaumpk. i want to thank the faith and politics for bringing us together one more time. senator ken scott, senator cheri brown, representative sewell and representative martha roby, thank you so much. she was registering people to vote long before we arrived.
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also, george wallace wallace ken day, thank you for being here, peggy. [ applause ] >> i wants to thank each and every one of you who marched across the bridge on bloody sunday. you didn't have to do it, but you did it. thank you. i tell you, it's god to be in selma one more time, just one more time. people often ask me, why do you come back? what purpose does it serve? we come to selma to be renewed. we come to be inspired. we come to be reminded that we must do the work that justice calls us to do. on march 7, 1965, a few innocent
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children of god. a plain purse or a backpack will aspire to walk 50 dangerous miles from selma. to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state of alabama. on that day, 600 people march in history. walking two-by-two down the sidewalk. not interfering with the trade and commerce. not interfere iing no one is sag
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a word. we were beaten, some of us was knocked bloody right here on this bridge. 17 of us were hospitalized that day. but we never became bitter or hostile. we can't believe that the truth we stood for would have the founders there. this city on the banks of the alabama river, gave birth to a movement that changes nation forever. our country will never, ever be the same because of what happened on this bridge. eight days after bloody sunday, the president of the united
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states delivered one of the most meaningful speeches ever made in the question of voting rights. he said the time of justice has come i believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. he went onto say it is right in the eyes of man and god that it should come. so it was in concord, so it was in alabama, so it was in selma, alabama. each of us must go baa to our homes after this celebration and
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build on a legacy of the march in 1965. the selma movement is saying today that we all can't do something. so i say to you, don't give up with a great meaning to you. don't get lost in a sea of dispair. stand up for what you believe in. in a fine analysis, we have one people, one family, the human family. we all grew up in the same house, the american house, the war house. we're black. we're white. we are hispanic. asian american, native american. but we're one people. thank you.
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[ applause ] >> my beloved brothers and sisters. it is a great honor for me to return to my whom state of alabama. to present to you something that is presented to you the president of the united states. we would cross there bridge that one >> if someone had told me that we were crossing this bridge, that one day i would be back here introducing the first african american president, i would have said you're crazy. you're out of your mind. you don't know what you're talking about. president barack obama! [ cheers and applause ]
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>> well, you know i love you back. >> it is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. and john lewis is one of my heroes. now, i have to imagine a younger john lewis woke up and made his way to brown shackle.
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heroics were not out of his mind. a day like this was not on his mind. bed rolls and backpacks were up. veterans of the movement, trained newcomerings and the tactics of nonviolence. the right way to protect yourself in an attack. i don't have to describe what tear gas does to the body. with doubt and anticipation, and they covered themselves with the final basis.
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what may be the test, god will take care of you. god will take care of you. men stopped with an apple, a toothbrush and a book on government all you need for a night behind bars, john lewis led them out of the church
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friends, fellow americans, as i noeted, there are places and moments in america where this nation's destiny has been decided. in one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of history, the slain of slavery and civil war, the death
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of four little girls in birmingham. it was a clash of wills. a contest to determine the true meaning of america. and because of men and women like john lewis. diane gnash, andrew young, fred shuttlesworth, dr. martin luther king, jr., the idea of a just america and a fair america: an inclusive america and a generous america.
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that idea ultimately triumphed. now, as is true across the landscape of american history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. it's part of a campaign that scanned generations. it's a long line of heroes. we're here to celebrate them. the courage of ordinary americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chasting rod. men and women who december piet the gust of blood and splintered bone would stay true and keep marching towards justice. rejoice and hope.
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be patient in tribulation. be constant in prayer. but in the days to come, they went back again and again when the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came. black and white, young and old. a white newsman, bill plant who covered the marches then to those who marched, though, to those gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.
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in full-time, their choralous would well up and reach president johnson. he would send them protection. we shall overcome. >> these men and women with faith in america the americans who cross that bridge were not physically overcoming. they held no elected office, but they led a nation. >> countless daily indignities.
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but they didn't speak special treatment. but just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before. what they did here won't reverberate through the ages. not because the change they wanted was preordained. not because their victory was complete. back then, they would outside
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agitators their faith was questioned, their lives threatened, their patriotism challenged. [ applause ] >> what could more profoundly vindicate the idea of america coming together to shape their country's course. what greater expression of faith than this.
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what greater form of patriot's elite that america is not yet finished. we weren't strong enough to be self critical. that each excessive generation to be more close le aligned with our highest idea. that's why selma is not some out liar in american experience. that's why it's not ecstatic to hold from a distance. it is, instead, the manifestation of our creed written into founding documents. we, the people, in order to form a more perfect union, we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.
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these are not just words, they're a living thing. a call to action. a road map for citizen ship. and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. for founders like franklin and jefferson. for leaders like lincoln and fdr, the success of our experiment and self government rested on engaging all of our citizens in this world. and that's what we celebrate here. that's what this movement was all about. one leg in our long journey toward freedom. american instinct is the same that moved patriots to choose revolution over terror. the same instinct that drew
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imgrants fra across oceans and the rio grande. the same instinct that led workers to reach an unjust status quo. the same it's the idea held by generations of citizens who believe that america is a constant work in progress, who believe that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. it requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. that's america. that's what makes us unique. that's what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. young people behind the iron curtain would see selma and
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eventually tear down that wall. young people in soweto would hear bobby kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. young people in burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. they saw what john lewis had done. from the streets of tunis to ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place. where the powerless could change the world's greatest power and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom. they saw that idea made real right here in selma, alabama. they saw that idea manifest itself here in america. because of campaigns like this, the voting rights act was passed. political and economic and social barriers came down. and the change these men and
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women wrought is visible here today in the presence of african-americans who run board rooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities, from the congressional black caucus all the way to the oval office. because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open. not just for black folks but for every american. women marched through those doors. latinos marched through those doors. asian-americans, gay americans, americans with disabilities, they all came through those doors. their endeavors gave the entire south the chance to rise again. not by reasserting the past but by transcending the past. what a glorious thing, dr. king
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might say. and what a solemn debt we owe. which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt? first and foremost, we have to recognize that one day's commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. if selma taught us anything, it's that our work is never done. the american experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation. selma teaches us as well that action requires that we shed our cynicism. for when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair. you know, just this week i was asked whether i thought the department of justice's ferguson
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report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. and i understood the question. the report's narrative was sadly familiar. and evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the civil rights movement. but i rejected the notion that nothing's changed. what happened in ferguson may not be unique, but it's no longer endemic. it's no longer sanctioned by law or by custom. and before the civil rights movement, it most surely was. we do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable. that racial division is inherent in america. if you think nothing's changed in the past 50 years, ask
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somebody who lived through the selma or chicago or los angeles of the 1950s. ask the female ceo who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed. ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in america now than it was 30 years ago. to deny this progress, this hard-won progress, our progress, would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make america better. of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that ferguson is an isolated incident. that racism is banished. that the work that drew men and women to selma is now complete and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the race card for their own purposes. we don't need a ferguson report
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to know that's not true. we just need to open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. we know the march is not yet over. we know the race is not yet won. we know that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged, all of us, by the content of our character, requires admitting as much. facing up to the truth. we are capable of bearing a great burden. james baldwin once wrote. once we discover the burden is real iity and arrive where realy is, there's nothing america can't handle if we actually look squarely at the problem. and this is work for all americans. not just some. not just whites.
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not just blacks. if we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. all of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now. all of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions. on our attitudes. the things we teach our children. and if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed. and consciences can be stirred. and consensus can be built. with such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on.
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the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect. and citizens in ferguson and new york and cleveland, they just want the same thing young people marched here for 50 years ago, the protection of the law. together we can address unfair sentencing and overcrowded prisons. and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads and good workers and good neighbors. with effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. americans don't accept a free ride for anybody. nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. but we do expect equal opportunity. and if we really mean it, if we're not just giving lip service to it but if we really mean it and are willing to
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sacrifice for it, then yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century. one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives children the skills they need. we can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job. and a fair wage. and a real voice. and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class. and with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge. and that is the right to vote. right now, in 2015, 50 years after selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. as we speak, more such laws are being proposed. mean while, the voting rights act, the culmination of so much
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blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the voting rights act stands weakened. its future subject to political rancor. how can that be? the voting rights act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy. the result of republican and democratic efforts. president reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. president george w. bush signed its renewal when he was in office. 100 members of congress have come here today to honor people who are willing to die for the right to protect it. if we want to honor this day, let that 100 go back to washington and gather 400 more and together pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year. that's how we honor those on
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this bridge. of course, our democracy is not the task of congress alone. or the courts alone. or even the president alone. if every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we would still have here in america one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. 50 years ago, registering to vote here in selma and much of the south meant guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap. it meant risking your dignity and sometimes your life. what's our excuse today for not
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voting? how do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? how do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping america's future? why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places. we give away our power. fellow marchers, so much has changed in 50 years. we have endured war and we fashioned peace. we've seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives. we take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined. but what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship. that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon or a
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unitarian minister or a young mother of five to decide they love this country so much that they'd risk everything to realize its promise. that's what it means to love america. that's what it means to believe in america. that's what it means when we say, america is exceptional. for we were born of change. we broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline but endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. we secure our rights and responsibilities to a system of self-government of and by and for the people. that's why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction. because we know our efforts matter. we know america is what we make of it. look at our history.
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we are lewis and clark. and sacagawea. followed by a stampede of farmers and miners and entrepreneurs and hucksters. that's our spirit. that's who we are. we're sojourner truth and fannie lou hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some. we're susan b. anthony, who shifted the system until the law reflected that truth. that is our character. we're the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores. the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. holocaust survivors. soviet defectors. the lost boys of sudan. we're the hopeful strivers who cross the rio grande because we want our kids to know a better life. that's how we came to be. we're the slaves who built the white house. and the economy of the south.
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you're the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the west. the countless laborers who laid rail and raised skyscrapers and organized for workers' rights. we're the fresh-faced gis who fought to liberate a continent. we're the tuskegee airmen and the navajo code talkers and the japanese-americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. we're the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11. the volunteers who signed up to fight in afghanistan and iraq. we're the gay americans whose blood ran in the streets of san francisco and new york just as blood ran down this bridge. we are storytellers, writers, poets, artists, who abhor unfairness and despise hypocrisy and give voice to the voiceless and tell truths that need to be told.
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we're the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues. bluegrass and country and hip hop and rock 'n' roll and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom. we are jackie robinson, enduring scorn, and pitches coming straight to his head and stealing home in the world series anyway. we are the people langston hughes wrote of, who build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how. we are the people emerson wrote of who, for truth and honor sake, stand fast and suffer long. who are never tired so long as we can see far enough. that's what america is. not feeble attempts to define it more american as others.
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we respect the past but we don't pine for the past. u the future. we grab for it. america's not some fragile thing. we are large, containing multitudes. perpetually young in spirit. that's why someone like john lewis at their ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march. and that's what the young people here today and listening all across the country will take away from this day. >> you are america. unconstrained by habit and convention. unencumbered by what is because you're ready to seize what ought
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to be. for everywhere in this country there are first steps to be taken. there's new ground to cover. there's more bridges to be crossed. and it is you, young and fearless in heart, who the nation is waiting to follow. because selma shows us that america is not the project of any one person. because the single, most powerful word in democracy is the word "we." we, the people. we shall overcome. yes, we can. that word is owned by no one. it belongs to every one. oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to
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improve this great nation of ours. 50 years from bloody sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we're getting closer. 239 years after this nation's founding, our union is not yet perfect. but we are getting closer. our job is easier because someone already got us through that first mile. somebody already got us over that bridge. when it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we've been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers and draw strength from their example and hold firmly to the prophet of isaiah. those who hope in the lord will renew their strength, they will soar on the wings like eagles. they will run and not grow weary. they will walk and not be faint. we honor those who walked so we could run.
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we must run so our children soar and we will not grow weary for we believe in the power of an awesome god. and we believe in this country's sacred promise. may he bless those warriors of justice no longer with us and bless the united states of america. thank you, everybody. [ cheers and applause ] [ cheers and applause ]
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we stand here at the bottom of a bridge named after a confederate war general and hero, we are convinced of that eternal truth implanted in the minds and hearts of our ancestors when they told us and reminded us that you were table to take that which was meant for evil and turn it into good, that you could take crooked sticks and hit straight. patting ourselves on the back, but to realize that our congratulatory moment is only made possible because we stand on the backs and on the shoulders of others. we've not come to declare that the mission has been accomplished but we want to
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shout to the top of our lungs that the mission has not been abandoned. shortcomings and our failures and our personal lives and our collective lives. we declare to the whole word that we still have faith in you, we have faith in ourselves, faith in our system and government. we have faith in our city of selma. we come to pay our respects to those who have gone before us. we surely do not the debt we owe to them. those who stood here, worked here, bled here, suffered here but did not stop here. in the blessed name of our lord and our savior and all that is holy, we pray. amen, amen and amen.
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♪ on the next "washington journal," a look at the future of the affordable care act. our guests are jennifer heberkorn, politico kimberly leonard and u.s. news & world report. join us with your calls and comments on facebook and
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twitter. this new year's weekend, book tv brings you three days of nonfiction books and authors. on new year's day, encore presentations of in-depth starting at 7:00 pm eastern. nationally syndicated talk be show host on his life and career. his many books include the crash of 2016. rebooting the american dream and threshold. at 10:00 pm eastern, economist walter williams. his other books include race and economics and up from the projects. saturday evening at 10:00 pm eastern on "afterwards" karl rove, former white house deputy chief of staff. triumph of william mckinley. discusses political environment in 1896, political gridlock and mckinley's expansion of the republican base.
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richard brookheiser. >> republican party has been beaten in the 1892 election. mckinley has been the governor of ohio and seen the country sink into a deep depression and republicans think election of 1876 is going to be theirs. he is not the front-runner. >> directly afterwards join book tv as we join a book tv party thrown for karl rove. actor david marinass, "once in a great city:a detroit city" as well as first in his class. and barack obama the story. three days of nonfiction books and authors on

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