The March for Jobs and Freedom culminating in the “Dream” speech that occurred 50 years ago today stirred the social consciences of many more than the 250,000 who were on the Washington mall that hot summer day in Washington, D.C.
All of us who are old enough have no business remembering where we were on that Wednesday afternoon so long ago. But we do. “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village,” said a prophetic Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s at about the time there was a TV in virtually every living room
I was 13 about to enter 9th grade in Lynn, MA. The television was on in our Clarendon Avenue apartment and I knew the live network coverage in black and white was connecting me to something big and historic. Former President Bill Clinton, praising the marchers at todays’ commemoration at the Lincoln Memorial, said he too joined the march through the medium as a 17 year old in Arkansas.
This march and that speech changed America. They opened minds, they melted hearts and they moved millions, including a 17-year-old boy watching alone in his home in Arkansas. (Applause.) It was an empowering moment, but also an empowered moment. As the great chronicler of those years, Taylor Branch, wrote: The movement here gained the force to open, quote, “the stubborn gates of freedom,” and out flowed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, Medicare, Medicaid, open housing.
King’s speech and the march brought millions of people together in hope and possibility that August day. And television elevated the event in the cause of social justice.
Less than three months after the March for Jobs and Freedom I and many others would never forget where we were 50 years later. We spent many more hours in front of the black and white TVs — this time part of a global village connected in loss and sorrow over President Kennedy’s assassination.