This day, many hadn’t come
But all that was for naught
Because no one really noticed.
Those who came could have
Closed their eyes and still felt
The singular beauty of the place.
Could have still heard the silenced voices
Of the old warriors, and could have
Heard the sound the old bridge made
With the wind softly moving through it
And the shoes passionately walking over it
All voices still silent.
See and hear the beauty of the place
Look out into the rivers of time
Touch each other in
And feel the beauty of the day.
The remarkable memories it brought
Were enough. I wouldn’t change a thing.
No need to change the name of the bridge, either
That bridge belongs to everyone and no one, anyway.
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 that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:
No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.
Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government — all you need for a night behind bars — John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.
President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans:
There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.
Selma is such a place.
In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher — met on this bridge.
It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.
And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America — that idea ultimately triumphed.
As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.
We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice.
They did as Scripture instructed: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” And 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, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope. A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.
In time, their chorus would reach President Johnson. And he would send them protection, echoing their call for the nation and the world to hear:
“We shall overcome.”
What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God — but also faith in America.
The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities — but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.
President Obama talks with Yolanda Renee King, 5, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., her mother Arndrea Waters, and Martin Luther King III
The complete ceremony, forward to 30 minutes for the start:
President Obama’s speech:
With Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and Mark Barden, father of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Daniel Barden, Peter Yarrow, left, and Paul Stookey, right, of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary
Greg Sargent: …. Republicans are caught in an Obamacare trap. They know proposing repeal while not offering a serious alternative is untenable. But when they do propose alternatives that would accomplish the popular parts of Obamacare, conservatives revolt, because they don’t want to sap the repeal-Obamacare drive of its energy and don’t want to legitimize an interventionist role for government. Which just highlights what Republicans are trying to obscure in the first place: the party is in the grip of an anti-Obamacare animus that has come unhinged from any normal policy considerations, and doesn’t envision a meaningfully constructive role for government in solving our health care problems.
NYT: House Majority Leader’s Quest to Soften G.O.P.’s Image Hits a Wall Within
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, has been trying for months to remake the image of the Republican Party, from one of uncompromising conservatism to something kinder and gentler.
It isn’t working so well.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders abruptly shelved one of the centerpieces of Mr. Cantor’s “Making Life Work” agenda — a bill to extend insurance coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions — in the face of a conservative revolt. Last month, legislation to streamline worker retraining programs barely squeaked through. In May, Republican leaders will try again with legislation, pitched as family-friendly, to allow employers to offer comp time or “flex time” instead of overtime. But it has little prospect for Senate passage.
So it has gone. Items that Mr. Cantor had hoped would change the Republican Party’s look, if not its priorities, have been ignored, have been greeted with yawns or have only worsened Republican divisions.
TPM: I’m sure many of you got a kick over the mini-implosion of Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign yesterday, with his own campaign manager admitting that he thinks McConnell sucks and is only working for him to further the hopes of Rand Paul. It all ended up with this cringey-not-going-to-fix-the-damage picture of Mitch and his disser…
…. I’m coming around to the idea that Mitch McConnell could actually lose his reelection battle next year, through a mix of deep unpopularity, a tough and well financed primary challenger and a decent Democratic opponent. But …. McConnell’s problems at home make a government shutdown and a lot of other nonsense much more likely. Whether or not McConnell finally wins or loses is basically a secondary point. It’s what he’ll do trying to win from now until election day 2014…..
Steve Benen: Rand Paul’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week
It’s probably safe to say Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has had better weeks. Just over the last few weeks he started to lose his cool on NPR when asked about a neo-confederate he co-authored a book with; he was caught making ridiculous boasts about his record on minority rights; and he repeated a bizarre conspiracy theory about George Stephanopoulos that’s already been debunked.
And then, after all of this, the Kentucky Republican sat down for a chat with Businessweek’s Josh Green….
Steve Benen: Immigration reform’s odds improve – a little
It’s pretty easy to assume that fierce Republican opposition will doom comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, for much of the summer, House GOP extremism on the issue has reinforced fears that the odds are poor.
But there’s been some gradual movement of late, and it’s given new hope to reform proponents.
Aug. 9, 2011 – Pete Souza: “The President, in the process of saluting, participates in a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of U.S. and Afghan personnel who died in Afghanistan a few days earlier. Many family members and friends of the special forces who died in this incident requested a copy of the photograph and later wrote me how much it meant to them.”
President Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece in the Oval Office of the White House. Obama and Samras discussed a range of bilateral issues during their meeting.
AJC: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a man in high demand as we approach the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, recently sat down with The Guardian – the newspaper that Edward Snowden chose for his now-famous leaks.
The Atlanta congressman wasn’t thrilled with the results. Apparently, the headline – since adjusted – had him praising the former IT man for the NSA as another Gandhi….
…. Here’s the note put out this morning by Lewis:
“News reports about my interview with The Guardian are misleading, and they do not reflect my complete opinion. Let me be clear. I do not agree with what Mr. Snowden did. He has damaged American international relations and compromised our national security. He leaked classified information and may have jeopardized human lives. That must be condemned.
“I never praised Mr. Snowden or said his actions rise to those of Mohandas Gandhi or other civil rights leaders. In fact, The Guardian itself agreed to retract the word “praise” from its headline…..”
ThinkProgress: Voters Confront Congressman For Trying To Repeal Obamacare: ‘We’ve Got To Have It’
In Washington, D.C., Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) issues countless press releases boasting about his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, insisting that his constituents in North Carolina are clamoring for relief from the law. But during a town hall in Swannanoa on Wednesday, voters confronted the five-term Congressman with an entirely different sentiment: they demanded to know why Republicans would take away the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions without offering any credible other alternative for reforming the health care system. One grieving mother, who spoke to reporters before the event, said that her son was denied insurance because of a pre-existing health condition and eventually died of colon cancer.
Zap2It: President Obama’s Appearance On ‘The Tonight Show’ Earns Top Tuesday Overnights In 21 Months
In Late-Night Metered Markets Tuesday night: With a guest appearance by President Barack Obama, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” delivered its highest rating in metered-market households (a 3.8 rating, 10 share) for any night of the week in nine months, since Wednesday, October 24, 2012 (4.0), the night of Obama’s prior appearance on the show, and highest for a Tuesday night in 21 months, since October 25, 2011 (4.1), the night of another appearance by President Obama.
TIME: How Obama’s Putin Snub Is Playing Out In Russia
On Wednesday evening, when U.S. President Obama cancelled his upcoming visit to Moscow, the Russian reaction was perhaps most clear in the way that Vesti, the state’s main propaganda TV channel, conveyed it on the channel’s website. Buried about half way down on the page, underneath a story about Russian tourists in Turkey, Vesti announced: “The invitation for Obama stands.” Beside that was the somewhat diversionary headline: “Barack Obama will travel to St. Petersburg for the G20 summit.” The actual news — that Obama had decided not to meet with his Russian counterpart before, after or during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg next month — was clearly not something the official spin doctors wanted to advertise.
After a year spent honing their anti-American rhetoric — on issues ranging from the adoption of Russian children to missile defense in Europe and the civil war in Syria — the Kremlin message makers were suddenly eager to claim that President Vladimir Putin didn’t really mean for things to go this far. “Sure, Putin uses this rhetoric, but it’s not so much anti-American as anti-Euro-Atlantic,” says Evgeny Minchenko, a Kremlin-connected political strategist. “And keep in mind that he has tried to stop short of a head-on collision.”
Putin has not yet replied to Obama’s snub, but most experts found it hard to see how he could spin it in his favor. “He can again say that he did not bow to American demands, that he did not obey,” says Alexander Konovalov, an expert on U.S.-Russia affairs at the Moscow Institute of International Relations. But that message has grown hackneyed over the past year of bickering between Moscow and Washington, so it will not earn him many points with the domestic electorate, adds Konovalov.
AP: Obama To Honor Clinton, Oprah With Freedom Medal
Clinton and Oprah Winfrey will be among 16 people that President Barack Obama will venerate later this year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday. They’ll join other prominent people to be honored this year, including musicians, scientists, activists — even an astronaut. “This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,” Obama said in a statement.
Others who will receive the medal: Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye will receive the award posthumously. Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of Watergate. Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride will receive the award posthumously. Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat. Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women’s rights activist. Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin will receive the award posthumously. Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Loretta Lynn, country music singer. Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S. Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina’s basketball team for 36 years. Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court’s chief judge. C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.
10:50: The President delivers a statement on the confirmation of Richard Cordray as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
NYT: Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, state officials are to announce on Wednesday.
State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state.
“Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives with the Community Service Society of New York. “It’s not bargain-basement prices, but we’re going from Bergdorf’s to Filene’s here.”
“The extraordinary decline in New York’s insurance rates for individual consumers demonstrates the profound promise of the Affordable Care Act,” she added.
AG Eric Holder: “So Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.”
Full NAACP speech from yesterday (transcript here):
…. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell struck a deal, abetted apparently by John McCain, that averted the invocation of the nuclear option by Reid and the Democrats. Reid got just about everything he wanted. The Senate is going to pass through all seven nominees that Reid brought up in this skirmish….
…. About as clear a win for one party over another as we’ve seen in a long time. Why did it happen? Because everyone in the room knew that the Democrats had the 51 votes to change the rules. Stand together or fall apart, as the old cliche goes. It’s true. It’s still pathetic that it had to come to this for the president to fill his cabinet (and sub-cabinet), but it goes to show that holding the line as a group works.
Steve Benen: …. Will what transpired in the Senate yesterday actually, you know, matter? …. The cautious answer is that it’s evidence of incremental progress, the results of which will have a real-world impact on the lives of real people.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, looks out for consumers against predatory excesses from the financial industry. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Chris Hayes last night, in light of yesterday’s deal and Richard Cordray’s confirmation, “We know this agency is here to stay. No more clouds over what it legally is entitled to do. No more attacks that say maybe we’re going to be able to undercut it in this way or weaken it in that way. We’ve got a full-fledged watchdog. The one we fought for, and [Cordray] is going to be there to fight for us.”
…. I’ve heard plenty of criticisms of yesterday’s agreement, and detractors have raised fair concerns … But in today’s environment, incremental progress is still progress, and there’s ample reason to believe yesterday’s deal moves the ball forward.
Congress is taking the first steps toward bringing back pre-clearance of voting laws under the Voting Rights Act this week, as activists express tempered optimism in lawmakers’ willingness and ability to act.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month tossed out the Voting Rights Act’s formula that determined which jurisdictions must submit their voting law changes to the federal government before enacting them. The 5-4 ruling did not get rid of pre-clearance altogether but said Congress must come up with an updated standard to enforce it rather than the 1965 version that covered Georgia and other Deep South states with a history of overt discrimination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will kick off the congressional response with a hearing Wednesday featuring Congress’ civil rights conscience: Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
Michael Tomasky: …. the narrative about the IRS targeting Obama’s enemies has been thoroughly debunked….
The IRS “scandal,” lately dormant, is returning soon to cable-news channel near you: Tomorrow, Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general who produced the original report at Darrell Issa’s request, is going back before Issa’s committee, and this time he’s in for some pretty serious grilling from Democrats. The evidence is now even more preponderant than it already was that there was absolutely no political agenda in the IRS’s review of 501(c)(4) applications. In fact, evidence is mounting that if anyone was behaving politically here, it was George — and, of course, Issa and the other Republicans who launched into their baseless tirades about “enemies lists” and other such nonsense.
…. what about the mainstream media that swallowed whole from the Republican-conservative spoon, running huge headlines and ominous editorials, all those breathy stories that got nearly half the American public believing, on the basis of zero hard evidence, that the White House was involved here? It’s not in the nature of the beast to run huge headlines saying “No Scandal Here.” But it should be in the beast’s nature to take a much harder look at Issa, George, and the other perpetuators of this non-story. And it should start tomorrow, when George testifies.
Reuters: President Barack Obama on Tuesday for the first time admitted that it was unlikely that the Republican-led House of Representatives would pass sweeping immigration reforms before lawmakers left Washington for a month-long break in August.
In television interviews taped with four Spanish-language newscasts, Obama said he thinks many Republicans need more time to grapple with concerns about border security and the changing demographics of America.
…. Obama has insisted that reforms must include the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he told Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.
Many House Republicans oppose that measure, calling it “amnesty” for people who have broken existing immigration laws. But Obama said ignoring the problem would resign undocumented immigrants to “a lower status.” “I think that’s not who we are as Americans,” he said.
Democrats once ruled Texas. Then came five decades of steady decline. Can Wendy Davis, the Castro brothers, and Team Obama’s vaunted field operation return their party to power? And if they can’t, can anyone?
“Somebody has to step up,” Wendy Davis observed one evening in late May over drinks at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. “As long as the Democrats continue to buy into the same bullshit that some of the Republicans are saying — ‘Oh no, it’s Texas, it’s hopeless’ — and continue to act like it won’t happen for six, eight, twelve, sixteen years from now, that perpetuates the problem.”
“So are you going to run for statewide office?” I asked.
Her green eyes sparkled. “One day, someday,” she said coyly.
One day, someday, about a month later, on the morning of June 25, the petite fifty-year-old Democratic state senator from Fort Worth fixed herself a single boiled egg for breakfast. It would be her only meal of the day. She slipped on a pair of pink tennis shoes, headed over to the Capitol, and stepped up……
President Obama hosted members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority at the White House on Tuesday as the group gather in Washington for their annual convention. The Oval Office meeting marked the 100th anniversary of the African-American sorority and the 51st anniversary of its convention. Obama met with members including the sorority’s president, Cynthia Butler-McIntyre.
@petesouza: Pres Obama with make-a-wish visitor Suhail Zaveri, 14, and his family in the Oval Office
CBS: Cuban and U.S. officials will hold the first migration talks between the two nations since 2011 in Washington on Wednesday. Analysts believe both countries have a strong interest in getting them off the ground again.
…. The Bush Administration broke off these twice-yearly talks, along with taking other measures such as severely restricting the rights of Cuban Americans to travel back to the island – limiting them to only one visit every three years.
President Obama reestablished the rights of Cuban Americans to visit their homeland as much as they want and resumed the talks, only to break them off over the detention and jailing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, which the State Department has repeatedly said remains a major obstacle to any improvement in relations between the two neighboring countries.
Oh Happy Day for Prop 8 Plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier as they tied the knot
Annie-Rose Strasser: On Friday afternoon, the ninth circuit court lifted its stay on same-sex marriages in the state of California, acknowledging the Supreme Court’s opinion in Hollingsworth v Perry that supporters of anti-gay Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal a lower court judge’s ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The move, which came earlier than expected, allows gay and lesbian couples to begin getting married immediately.
As soon as the news came down from the ninth circuit on Friday, California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris began marrying couples — starting with Proposition 8 plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier
Heather Gerken (Slate): Goodbye to the Crown Jewel of the Civil Rights Movement – People died to pass Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but that didn’t save it at the Supreme Court.
…. To understand why Section 5 was special, you have to know a bit about its history. The brutal attacks on civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge provided the push needed to pass the Voting Rights Act. When the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, almost no African-Americans were registered to vote in the Deep South due to brutal repression and sickening legal chicanery.
Civil rights litigators and the Department of Justice were doing their best to help. They filed lawsuit after lawsuit to make it possible for blacks to register. But every time a court deemed one discriminatory practice illegal, local officials would switch to another. Literacy tests, poll taxes, burdensome registration requirements – these techniques were all used to prevent African-Americans from voting. Southern voting registrars would even resign from their positions as soon as a lawsuit was on the cusp of succeeding, thereby sending the case back to square one. The Voting Rights Act aimed to change all of this.
Section 5 was the most important and imaginative provision in the law….
Sahil Kapur: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned the fierce dissent against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Tuesday to invalidate a key section of the Voting Rights Act, accusing the conservative justices of displaying “hubris” and a lack of sound reasoning. “[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making,” wrote the leader of the court’s liberal wing. “Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.”
Joined by the three other liberal-leaning justices, Ginsburg scolded the conservative majority and its rationale for throwing out Section 4 of the law — which contains the formula Congress has used to determine which states and local governments must receive federal pre-approval before changing their voting laws. “Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today,” she wrote. “The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story.” “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” Ginsburg wrote.
Texas Tribune: The nation watched on Tuesday — and into Wednesday — as Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and hundreds of impassioned reproductive rights advocates stalled proceedings and ultimately defeated controversial abortion legislation in a storm of screams and shouts as the clock struck midnight.
“I am overwhelmed, honestly,” Davis said after standing for nearly 13 hours to filibuster Senate Bill 5, the abortion legislation. The outpouring of support from protesters at the Capitol and across the nation, she said, “shows the determination and spirit of Texas women and people who care about Texas women.”
…. Republican senators made a last-ditch effort to approve SB 5, voting 19-10, but by then the clock had ticked past midnight. Under the terms of the state Constitution, the special session had ended, and the bill could not be signed, enrolled or sent to the governor.
… Conservative lawmakers tried every tool in the Senate rulebook to derail the filibuster. A “three strikes, you’re out” precedent in the Senate grants lawmakers two warnings about staying germane to the bill topic … Davis received the three strikes: two were on the germaneness of the discussion and one was related to Davis receiving assistance from another senator to put on a back brace….