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Obama: Dr. King Marched for Jobs, Economic Justice

by Mike Carvalho  |  August 31, 2011

MLK Memorial in Washington, DC
Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC (Photo by Rick Reinhard)

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama appeared on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” to discuss the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial and what Dr. King stood for in the last part of his life.

While the dedication of the monument in Washington, DC, was postponed due to Hurricane Irene, the site is now open to the public. Calling the memorial a “moving and powerful” reminder of what is possible in this country, Obama said it is also a reminder of the work that remains to achieve Dr. King's dream.

Obama recalled the 1968 strike by 1,300 Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers — members of AFSCME Local 1733 — which marked Dr. King's last campaign for justice.

“I think it’s always important to remember that when Dr. King gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, that was a march for jobs and justice, not just justice. And in the last part of his life, when he went down to Memphis, that was all about sanitation workers saying, ‘I am a man,’ and looking for economic justice and dealing with poverty.

“And so it’s not enough for us to just remember the sanitized versions of what Dr. King stood for; he made a real call for us to dig deep and be thinking about our fellow citizens and people around the world who are in desperate need and figuring out how we can help them.”

As Hurricane Irene moved inland last Friday, AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders appeared on MSNBC to speak about the significance of the King memorial in light of today's attacks on public service workers in states across the country.

“These public service workers Dr. King fought for when he died are the same brave men and women who are helping repair and rebuild this country so it can recover from the storm.”

Listen to the Obama interview here, and read the full transcript. Learn more about the Memphis sanitation strike here.

Rescheduled dates for the official memorial dedication ceremonies and the March for Jobs and Justice have not yet been announced.

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