President Obama called on Americans to keep working toward making Martin Luther King's dream a reality on Wednesday, saying, "The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn't bend on its own." But for the most part, in his speech marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Obama seemed to be avoiding controversy: calling on people to have empathy for each other, praising volunteerism, pointing out the importance of good parents.
Though he pointed out that the 1963 March on Washington was about jobs, Obama spoke about struggling working Americans in pretty much the same terms he used in a series of speeches he gave this summer to convince congressional Republicans to agree to some deal on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. The wage and wealth gaps between black and white Americans has grown, Obama noted, but stagnant wages affect everyone:
For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate. Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.
Obama said those who were carrying King's dream forward — "marching" — were hard-working teachers, the businessman who "pays his works a fair wage," the mom who teaches her daughter she can break a glass ceiling, veterans who help other veterans, the "father who realizes the most important job he'll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn't have a father, especially if he didn't have a father at home."