Like many of us, my generation was not yet around when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other great leaders of the moment, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his impassioned speech from which those immortal words would rise to inspire, organize, and empower generations to come. Yet, perhaps like me, you feel connected to those words, to that moment, as if you had been standing among the 250,000 people who gathered in Washington, D.C., -- a demonstration led not by anger, hate nor fear, but by faith, love and hope.
So you can imagine how proud I was to have had the opportunity to join thousands of others last weekend in the very spot where Dr. King cast aside his prepared remarks and followed the advice of Mahalia Jackson, who suggested he "Tell 'em about the dream Martin."
Those words that day set a standard by which we measure our nation's humanity, morality and commitment to advancing economic and social equality for all. And while some might suggest that the election of our first African American president signals a great advancement toward achieving the dream, the truth is -- we have a long way to go.
We have a long way to go when families working a 40-hour workweek can't make ends meet because they earn poverty wages, and when 11 million aspiring Americans still live in the shadows and in fear of deportation, without a voice in our economy or democracy.
We have a long way to go when our unemployment and high school dropout rates disproportionately impact our communities of color and those with the lowest income.
We have a long way to go when our youth who do graduate are unable to afford a college education that will not only present a pathway to prosperity for them, but our nation as well.
We have a long way to go when targeted populations of Americans are denied their fundamental voting rights, and when the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the faith in which we believe can be the cause of a life cut short.
We have a long way to go when healthcare remains out of reach for millions of families and when privileged groups mobilize to thwart the life-saving promises of healthcare for all. And a long way to go when the voices of working people are threatened with being silenced, as the greed of a few ultra wealthy Americans remains the priority over "liberty and justice for all."
Yes, we have a long way to go, but I believe in our ability to achieve the dream together. We have witnessed the power, strength, and progress that can occur when we stand united, with one voice, unwavering in the face of those threatened by our collective vision and committed to crushing it.
Through my work in the labor movement, I have been personally reminded of the impact of our collective strength when we stood with Rose Mary Gudiel and her elderly mother and stopped the senseless and unjustified foreclosure on their home. I have been reminded of this strength when the nation stood with the 99 percent movement and pushed back against corporate greed. And I am reminded of our strength as we work diligently to make the passage of comprehensive immigration reform a key priority for our nation.
There is no question that this nation has the ability to improve the lives of millions of people who call this great country "home." We can make our country stronger by winning the fight for higher wages for working families, protecting voting rights for all Americans, demanding a path to citizenship, delivering affordable healthcare for all, accepting nothing less than equal justice, and achieving a voice in the workplace. But we can only claim such victory if we keep the dream alive long after the celebration is over.
The great thing about a significant anniversary like that of the March on Washington is that it spurs conversation, stirs the intrigue of the media, produces gatherings and demonstrations, and forces us to evaluate where we are vs. where we think we should be.
However, the threat of such a celebration is that once it passes the conversation wanes to make room for a new topic, the media attention moves on, the spotlight shifts to another issue, and the dream gets lost as we return to the challenges of our day-to-day lives.
As we move on in the days that follow the commemoration of the March on Washington, I ask the generations that have only experienced the wake of that great day in 1963: What you will do to move the dream forward? How will you harness the tools and networks before you to not let this moment silently go by, but rather to share what the dream means to you and your commitment to its fulfillment?
Through all of the celebration and reflection on this profound moment in our country's history, we would be doing it an injustice if we spoke of that remarkable day only in its past tense. Instead, we must take the opportunity to place this great moment of our past squarely in our future and renew our commitment to Dr. King's dream and the principles for which it stands.
Through the power of social media and advancing technology, we have the ability to organize and amplify our voices in ways the 250,000 people who gathered in Washington, D.C., could not conceive. Imagine what that day on the Mall would have been like if its organizers could have Twitted out #MarchOnWashington or had a Facebook page to "like" and share with those within their networks of friends. Imagine how the fight for Civil Rights would have progressed if these social awareness tools had existed.
Without our collective action the dream will remain just that -- a dream. We must exercise the rights others have died and sacrificed for us to have. If you believe in it, tweet it. If you feel it, post it. Let this mark the moment in which we stand united to send a clear message to those who work against us that the dream is not dead, but rather burns stronger than ever in the hearts and souls of new generations. Ignite your activism by expressing your commitment to social and economic equality so that in the next 50 years we will be able to look back and reminisce with great pride on how we took one man's shared dream and made it a reality for all.