Obama Delivers Remarks at NAACP Convention
Tuesday, July 15, 2008; 6:18 PM
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-ILL.): It is always humbling to speak before the NAACP. It is a powerful reminder of the debt we all owe to those who marched for us and fought for us and stood up on our behalf; of the sacrifices that were made for us by those we never knew; and of the giants whose shoulders I stand on here today.
They are the men and women we read about in history books and hear about in church; whose lives we honor with schools, and boulevards, and federal holidays that bear their names. But what I want to remind you tonight -- on Youth Night -- is that these giants, these icons of America's past, were not much older than many of you when they took up freedom's cause and made their mark on history.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was but a 26-year old pastor when he led a bus boycott in Montgomery that mobilized a movement. John Lewis was but a 25-year old activist when he faced down Billy clubs on the bridge in Selma and helped arouse the conscience of our nation. Diane Nash was even younger when she helped found SNCC and led Freedom Rides down south. And your chairman Julian Bond was but a 25-year old state legislator when he put his own shoulder to the wheel of history.
It is because of them; and all those whose names never made it into the history books -- those men and women, young and old, black, brown and white, clear-eyed and straight-backed, who refused to settle for the world as it is; who had the courage to remake the world as it should be -- that I stand before you tonight as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America.
And if I have the privilege of serving as your next President, I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me -- by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try. That means removing the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding that still exist in America. It means fighting to eliminate discrimination from every corner of our country. It means changing hearts, and changing minds, and making sure that every American is treated equally under the law.
But social justice is not enough. As Dr. King once said, "the inseparable twin of racial justice is economic justice." That's why Dr. King went to Memphis in his final days to stand with striking sanitation workers. That's why the march that Roy Wilkins helped lead forty five years ago this summer wasn't just named the March on Washington, and it wasn't just named the March on Washington for Freedom; it was named the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.