The organizers could not have ordered better weather. The skies were clear, the sun was bright and, for late August in Washington, D.C., the temperature was mild. Like so many of us who were around for the first March in 1963, I was particularly glad to be able to attend on Saturday. The League was a sponsoring organization, so we got to sit at the bottom of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to watch the numerous inspiring speeches from leaders past and present. It was a privilege to hear Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressman John Lewis, Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as Cory Booker and others. The true highlight was the closing speech of the Reverend Al Sharpton. Rev. Sharpton issued a true call to action for a new generation of activists on the civil rights challenges that continue today.
As stirring as some of the speeches were, the atmosphere was festive and celebratory. A group of high school kids nearly swooned when AG Holder stopped to shake their hands after his speech and a trio of little boys clearly believed that their call to action was a game of tag on the lawn. From where we were positioned, it was difficult to get a sense of the crowd, which was reported in the tens of thousands on the Mall. But unlike the last time, MSNBC had a team of anchors high in the air above us providing start-to-finish coverage and jumbotrons were set up to help people see all of the engaging speakers.
But the irony that this commemoration occurred in the wake of the momentous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to gut key provisions of the Voting Rights Act was not lost on the crowd. Every speaker reminded us that while we celebrate our progress toward equality throughout this week of anniversaries, that we have much work to do. Carrie Chapman Catt said that the vote is the emblem of our equality. The call to action on this Women’s Equality Day as we commemorate the historic March on Washington of 1963 is to protect that emblem and never take it for granted.
"Dreams are for those who won't accept reality as it is, so they dream of what is not there and make it possible," said Reverend Sharpton. The League is proud to work alongside Reverend Sharpton and the thousands of other activists who rallied this weekend to achieve these dreams and to protect our voting rights and to make our elections fair, free and accessible to all citizens.