Shortly before 11:30 a.m. this morning, Mayor Vincent C. Gray was called to the podium at the Lincoln Memorial to welcome the crowd attending the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington — one of his most prominent national speaking appearances.
After remarks from “Kid President” Robby Novak and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, Gray delivered the following:
Good morning, everyone, and on behalf the 632,000 residents of the District of Columbia, I welcome you to our nation’s capital!
Fifty years ago today, in his immortal “I have a dream” speech, Dr. King borrowed a lyric from one of our favorite patriotic songs – “from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
He encouraged Americans to let freedom ring not only “from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado” and “the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania,” but also “from Stone Mountain of Georgia” and “every hill and molehill of Mississippi.”
There was one place that Dr. King didn’t mention in that speech, but about which he later spoke out forcefully: the District of Columbia.
That’s because full freedom and democracy were – and are – still denied to the people who literally live within sight of the Capitol dome.
Our city is home to more residents than the states of Vermont and Wyoming, but we have no voting representative in our own Congress.
We pay more than $3.5 billion a year in federal taxes, but don’t even get the final say over how we spend our own locally-raised revenues.
And we send our sons and our daughters to fight for democracy overseas, but don’t get to practice it fully at home.
So, today, as we remember those who gave so much half a century ago to extend the blessings of liberty to all Americans, I hope you will stand with me when I say that we must allow freedom to ring from Mount St. Alban, where rises the majestic National Cathedral.
We must allow freedom to ring from the ridges of Anacostia, where Frederick Douglass made his home.
And – most of all – we must allow freedom to ring from Capitol Hill itself, until all of the residents of the very seat of our great democracy are truly free!
Again, welcome to the District of Columbia. Let freedom ring in D.C.!