With songs and symbols from the struggle, a new generation of the faithful, the famous and the powerful stood before the Lincoln Memorial.
“The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate,” said President Barack Obama in an address to the estimated 30,000 people gathered on the Mall.
It was a much smaller crowd compared to the record 250,000 who assembled 50 years ago for one of the most important speeches in American history. But on Wednesday in Washington, the old souls stood with the young, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as relevant now as they were half a century ago.
In the midst of it all emerged the individual stories of a movement that changed a country. The stories of ordinary people like Sarah Davidson and Dianna Watson of Arkansas, who this time were welcomed to Washington like stars.
“I came here as a young girl, never leaving Arkansas before,” recalled Watson, “Being exposed to this city and the monuments here and it moved me up, it took away some of the feelings I felt because Dr. Martin Luther King told us to think positive and go home and help our families and our communities, and we did that.”
The teenagers rode a bus all the way from their homes in Arkansas. Half a century ago, as tenth graders, they endured far worse than a long bus ride. They survived the worst of segregation.
For two friends from Arkansas, much has changed in America in 50 years. Like the country they love, a little grayer, perhaps wiser, and still moving toward the dream.