Last night I watched President Obama deliver the first State of the Union Address of his second term, live from the House Chamber. It was humbling. As I watched, I reflected on our victories and the need for us to stay engaged and to keep fighting for justice.
2013 is a year filled with symbolism. On New Year's Day, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we witnessed the second inauguration of our nation's first African-American president. And tonight, on the 104th anniversary of the meeting when a handful of great leaders like Mary White Ovington and W.E.B. Du Bois came together to found the NAACP, we witnessed President Obama give his fourth State of the Union, outlining bold plans to address many of our nation's toughest challenges.
Yet let us each internalize what NAACP history has taught us: No president has ever changed the world alone.
If we are going to increase jobs and justice in America, we must stay on the battlefield and bring the fight to any politician who obstructs us or seeks to turn back the clock.
Why? Because millions of Americans are struggling every day to find work, millions of our undocumented brown and black brothers and sisters live in fear of having their families torn apart, millions are pushing for the healthcare law to be enacted in their states, and millions of our children live in terror of gun violence in their neighborhood and even in the sanctuary that is their classroom. Moreover, we are facing a new wave of voter suppression legislation in states across this country.
Last night President Obama set out an agenda that responds to many of the calls made by the movements that have twice made his presidency a reality. Now we must come together to ensure legislators from Capitol Hill to your state capitol have the courage to answer our call as well.
In this year of years, let us draw strength from remembering great leaders like our own Medgar Evers, who was assassinated 50 years ago while leading the NAACP in Mississippi. Referring to obstructionist legislators, he once said that if we do not like what our leaders are doing, we need to "get in there and change it."
Changing it means taking action today. It means calling up your state legislator, congressman or senator and pushing them to do the right thing. It means marching in a rally, writing a letter to the newspaper, and volunteering for the cause you believe in.
We are living through a historic moment of great peril and opportunity. One hundred and four years ago today, the NAACP was founded by brave Americans who felt compelled to fight for an America in which every person living in our great nation could enjoy freedom, justice, and democracy. Since then, the NAACP has continued the fight -- and increased opportunity for all our children.
When we work together for change, America benefits. Let us make this a better country for generations to come.
Follow Benjamin Todd Jealous on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenJealous