On anniversary of King's 'Dream' speech, bells to ring for freedom

WASHINGTON Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:13pm EDT

1 of 2. Viewers watch a film documentary, 'The March,' by James Blue about the 1963 March on Washington, at the National Archives in Washington August 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An address by President Barack Obama and nationwide bell-ringing will cap celebrations on Wednesday marking the 50th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King's landmark "I have a dream" speech.

Obama will speak during the "Let Freedom Ring and Call to Action" commemoration on the steps of Washington's Lincoln Memorial, the site of King's address on August 28, 1963, the White House said.

Other speakers include former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The ceremony will follow an interfaith service at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, organizers said.

The speech by Obama, the first black U.S. president, will come as almost half of Americans say much more needs to be done before the color-blind society that King envisioned is realized.

Obama said last week that the legacy of discrimination had left a persistent economic gap between blacks and whites, but that the civil rights movement's impulse for equality had spread to Hispanics, immigrants, gays and others.

"What's wonderful to watch is that ... each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly and do the right thing and not discriminate," he told a Binghamton University audience in Vestal, New York. "That's a great victory that we should all be very proud of."

The Lincoln Memorial ceremony will include bell-ringing at 3 p.m. EDT, 50 years to the minute after King ended his call for racial and economic justice with the words "let freedom ring."

About 50 communities or organizations around the United States have said they will ring bells. The Swiss city of Lutry and Tokyo are also taking part, said Atlanta's King Center, one of the event's organizers.

Other organizers include the National Action Network of civil rights leader and talk show host Al Sharpton, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Churches.

A "Jobs and Justice" march before the event is expected to snarl traffic around the Mall, an open area stretching two miles from the Capitol west to the Lincoln Memorial.

Obama's address will wrap up more than a week of Washington events marking the 50th anniversary of King's address. They included seminars, conferences and a march on Saturday that drew tens of thousands of people urging action on jobs, voting rights and gun violence.

"What we must do is we must give our young people dreams again," Sharpton told marchers.

King, a black clergyman and advocate of non-violence, was among six organizers of the 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," where he made his address.

King's address is credited with helping spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year. A white prison escapee assassinated the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1968.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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Comments (4)
Big2Tex wrote:
Won’t be ringing no bells at the NSA as freedom is a dirty word to the surveillance bots. Oh, there won’t be any bells ring at my place either. I rang my freedom bell the day George Zimmerman was acquitted.

Aug 27, 2013 1:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
hawkeye19 wrote:
King’s dream has been completely destroyed by black Americans and by their racist leaders, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, and Eric Holder. They have only themselves to blame. Dr. King would be ashamed of these men and what they have done to America.

Aug 27, 2013 2:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
clairesmithga wrote:
On this day 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. changed history forever. He gave a speech that touched the lives of not only blacks, but races from all across the world. We live in a melting pot of cultures and I couldn’t imagine living in a world that world that would more or less exile me for not exiling those different from the white race.
MLK Jr. was more than just a spokesperson for blacks, he was a spokesperson for human kind. In more recent years, the leaders of many civil rights movements are somewhat reversing what MLK has done for this country. Although they are rightly so fighting for the equality of blacks, they are simultaneously putting down other races, mainly the white race.
In this point in time, racism should no longer be a leading cause of dispute. We should all fight for each other rather than point a finger or put someone down for ones race, sexual orientation, or religion or lack there of. Perhaps out of this anniversary we can go back in time and remember exactly what it was MLK and many others like him were truly fighting for. Absolute equality.

Aug 27, 2013 3:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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