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March On Washington Still Meaningful

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington August 28, 2013.

"They came -- hundreds of thousands of people from across the country.”

“The year was 1963, [and] I was a first-grader in New York City,” Suzan Johnson Cook, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said on the 50th anniversary of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington. “The country was electrified. Buses were being chartered by the hundreds . . . And they came -- hundreds of thousands of people from across the country.”

“My grandmother and I watched on television, as my parents and neighbors headed to the March [in Washington DC],” she recalled. “Even [on] black and white [TV], it was clear the atmosphere was charged. Meanwhile, like many of my peers, I was attending Freedom School in the basement of the local church, learning Dr. King's principles of non-violence.”

“His teachings continued when, on Human Rights Day 1965, I listened on at Hunter College as Dr. King proclaimed, ‘We are in an era in which the issue of human rights is the central question confronting all nations,’” Ambassador Cook said. “That issue remains vital 50 years on -- and in it, I found my life's work and passion.”

“Following that speech, I asked Mrs. King for her address, and wrote her a letter about how the encounter affected me,” Ambassador Cook said. “[Mrs. King’s] hand-written reply showed me that leaders can also be personable. Fast-forward 10 years and I'd become Mrs. King's ‘other daughter’ -- best friend to their eldest Yolanda, with whom I went on to teach non-violent techniques throughout West Africa in 1981.”

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic event that continues to galvanize generation after generation in the pursuit of equality for all mankind,” she continued. “As Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, appointed by the first African American President of the United States . . . I have the tremendous honor of continuing -- and living -- the dream of helping people claim their inalienable rights, in every nation across the globe.”