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 and staff watch the U.S. soccer team vs Belgium in World Cup action in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 1 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. From left are, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Attorney General Eric Holder
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
With the Key Bridge, linking Washington and Northern Virginia in the background, President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The President said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn’t quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.
"If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. " —President Obama #RebuildAmerica
Steve Benen: ….. “It’s safe to say Speaker John Boehner does not agree with President Obama’s suggestion on Tuesday that Americans are better off now than they were when he took office. “Are you kidding me?!” Boehner said loudly in response to a reporter’s question on the comment.”
…. Obviously, national conditions aren’t close to where they need to be. …. Maybe, if guys like Boehner would start passing jobs bills and stop holding the economy back on purpose, the public would start to feel like the country is on the right track again.
But for those who take reality seriously, there’s no real question as to whether the country is better off now than in January 2009:
Then the nation was hemorrhaging jobs; now it’s gaining jobs.
Then the economy was shrinking; now the economy is growing.
Then the American automotive industry was on the verge of collapse; now it’s starting to thrive.
Then taxpayers were sending money to Wall Street; now taxpayers are being paid back.
Then Osama bin Laden was targeting Americans and our allies; now he’s dead and al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated.
Then U.S. troops were headed into the Middle East in greater numbers; now they’re headed home with their heads held high.
Republicans, including John Boehner, drove the United States into a pretty deep ditch during the Bush/Cheney era, and conditions are still pretty ugly. That doesn’t change the simple fact that the nation is much stronger now than the day the president was inaugurated ….
AP: A third former employee considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment.
The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association.
Washington Post: Car buyers were out in force in October, snapping up trucks and SUVs and taking advantage of deals on Japanese cars.
U.S. car and truck sales were expected to top 1 million in October, a surprising number for a month when sales are usually slow. When adjusted for seasonal factors, that would be the best pace since the Cash for Clunkers program in August 2009.
Mediaite: In a Quinnipiac poll taken Oct. 25-31, embattled GOP juggernaut Herman Cain continued to show amazing staying power …. (but) The real news from this poll, taken before most of the fallout from Politico‘s alleged sexual harassment expose, might be that some rays of sunshine are finally hitting President Obama.
….. President Obama gained six points on his approval rating … and is now beating all Republican challengers by margins of 5-16 points. The President has seen steady progress in the polls since rolling out his American Jobs Act in September, taking it on the road, and taking the fight to the Republicans who oppose it.
Elsewhere in the poll, Democrats opened up a lead on the generic House ballot, beating Republicans 42-36, after tying them at 39 in October.
AP: Michelle Obama has presented national arts and humanities awards to 12 community-based, after-school programs, including for at-risk kids.
The programs use dance, theater, writing, music, history and other art mediums to inspire teen moms and other young people and help them reach their potential. The first lady said at a White House ceremony Wednesday that the programs show that the arts are a lifeline – not a luxury – for many of these kids.
Most of the participants graduate from high school or earn a GED and go on to college.
The 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards are presented on behalf of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with three national cultural agencies.
Many thanks to AJ for this – I posted the President’s 2004 Convention speech in the new speeches’ section here and AJ let me know about this video of the reaction at the time of the PBS panel (Mark Shields, David Brooks and Richard Norton Smith):
MSNBC: U.S. private-sector employers added 110,000 jobs in October, beating economists’ expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 101,000 jobs. September’s private payrolls were revised up to an increase of 116,000 from the previously reported 91,000.
The report, which is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, gives some hope ahead of the release of the key U.S. jobs report from the government, which is due Friday morning and forecast to show the economy created 95,000 jobs last month.