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March on Washington anniversary to bring together three US presidents

To observe the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama will deliver a speech that's expected to be tinged with personal feeling. Joining him will be Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

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And she mentions two recent headlines – the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a key section of Voting Rights Act this summer and the Trayvon Martin case in Florida – as proof of why the discussion must continue.

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“Struggle is a never-ending process,” Ms. King told “Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.”

Still, despite its historic nature, not everyone is embracing this walk down memory lane. Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host and frequent Fox News personality, suggested on her show this week that the event’s goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda.” Her guest, former GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, said minorities don’t suffer in modern society.

“Black folks excel and are hugely popular figures in everything from sports to entertainment to athletics to politics,” he said. “Everywhere you go ... So the progress has been enormous."

Few could dispute that Mr. Obama’s election is one illustration of progress. That a “skinny kid with a funny name,” as he used to say on the campaign trail, could grow up to be the 44th president of the United States is a true reflection of changing attitudes.

Obama has at times been a reluctant participant in the national conversation about race and equality, preferring to be seen as a president who represents all people rather than one who more closely identifies with a particular segment of the population. He is, as he also liked to say on the stump, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.

Obama has taken heat when he has waded into national affairs freighted with racial meaning. The shooting death of teen Trayvon by George Zimmerman is a prominent example.

Obama chooses his moments carefully, though, and on Wednesday we can expect a speech tinged with personal feeling. Aides have said Obama will stand where King once did and “chart a course for the future,” according to Time, with a special plea to the country’s young people.

“This moment in the continuum in our history is an important one,” Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tells Time. “It gives the president a chance to reflect on those 50 years. What that speech meant to him, how far our nation has come, and where he sees our nation going.”

Anniversary event coordinators are asking that those interested join in a bell ringing at 3 p.m. A moment of modest song in an often divided Washington.


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