Words from the day

Quotes about Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:

“We must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call — this remains our great unfinished business.”

— President Barack Obama

“Dr. King was on this Earth just 39 years, but the ideals that guided his life of conscience and purpose are eternal. … There’s still a need for every American to help hasten the day when Dr. King’s vision is made real in every community — when what truly matters is not the color of a person’s skin, but the content of their character.”

— Former President George W. Bush

“I would respectfully suggest that Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock. It’s time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back.”

— Former President Bill Clinton

“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. truly spoke for all black people, because we were all unified behind one purpose. That was equal justice and liberty for all, and no one did more to bring it about than Dr. King. Today, there is no one leader who speaks for all black people, and that includes Barack Obama. … This is as it should be, because one aspect of the freedom for which Dr. King fought is that no single leader should be able to tell all black people how to think or how to live. And anyone who claims to speak for all black people is a fraud.”

— Herman Cain, talk show host and 2012 candidate for the GOP presidential nomination

“He was a pastor, he was a prophet, he was a faith leader. It was that faith and the spirit of God that infused that movement.”

— The Rev. Bernice King, speaking of her father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The senator believes today is a day to remember the extraordinary accomplishments and sacrifices of Dr. King, Congressman John Lewis and an entire generation of black leaders.”

— A spokesman for Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., responding to complaints that Scott, the only African-American senator, was not invited to speak at Wednesday’s 50th anniversary ceremony

“My parents did their fair share and I feel like we have to keep the fight alive. … This is hands-on history.”

— Frantz Walker of Baltimore, who attended the anniversary march

“I thought we would be a lot further along than we are.”

— John Pruitt of Huntsville, Ala., a voter rights advocate who attended both the 50th anniversary ceremony and 1963 march

“In many ways, this singular event redefined the American experience and, to this day, Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of an America without the burdens of prejudice and discrimination remains an unparalleled vision of our county’s potential.”

— Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.

“Overreaching big government and the crushing fiscal debt our nation faces does not know race or heritage.”

— Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga.

“On this day 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. kindled Americans’ hopes that his dream of full equality could be achieved. While we have made great progress, we still haven’t achieved that laudable and necessary goal. And today’s march shows the dream that Dr. King spoke about is very much alive in the hearts and souls of America.”

— Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“You only register progress by how far you have to go. … The fight has just begun and we can never accept the status quo until the word progress is taken out of our vocabulary.”

— NBA legend Bill Russell, who attended both the 1963 march and spoke at the anniversary

“It’s a history lesson that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”

— Jerome Williams, 57, a plumber from Washington, D.C., who attended the anniversary ceremony with his wife and two children

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