Forty Years of Struggle: Remarks @ Lincoln Memorial

Leslie Cagan, United for Peace & Justice, 8/28/2003

Remarks by Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice

Rally commemorating 40th Anniversary of 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, DC

August 23, 2003, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

As a teenager 40 years ago I came to this place as part of that historic

march for freedom, for justice, for equality. Today I stand before you

honored and humbled as we recall our history of struggle and re-commit

ourselves to the work ahead.

I stand here as a Jew, as part of a community of Jews who have never

broken with the civil rights movement, and who today work against racial

profiling and police brutality and discrimination in housing and

education and on the job. We are proud to be part of a movement that

includes not only Christians and Muslims and Jews, but also Hindus and

Buddhists and Sikhs and people of all faiths, and non-believers and

atheists. We are proud to be part of a movement of African Americans,

Latinos and Latinas, Asian and Pacific Islanders, the Native people of

this land and white people, and especially, at this moment of our

history, a movement that includes and welcomes Arabs and Arab Americans.

But here today, as we celebrate our history and are joyful in our

diversity, I stand here with a heavy heart. While progress has been made

these 40 years, the inhumanity of racism and sexism and homophobia

brings pain and suffering to millions of people every day. We all know

the struggle for freedom and justice is far, very far, from over.

And my heart is heavy because as we stand here today U.S. troops are

still occupying Iraq in the aftermath of an unjust, immoral and illegal

military invasion. The war against Iraq should never have happened, and

I say to George Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Colin

Powell and Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the war-mongers. YOU WERE


This occupation must end. Our service people are dying everyday day.

They must be brought home and the people of Iraq must be allowed to

determine their own destiny.

Today, instead of our money going into our schools and health care and

the other things our communities need, instead our money is used to help

maintain the deadly Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Our

tax dollars go to maintain U.S. military bases in every corner of the


Earlier today I walked around the area here and it seemed at every turn

I bumped into another monument to war. It is horrible to see the number

of U.S. service people killed in Korea and Vietnam and in other U.S.

military actions. But I must tell you, it is HORRIFYING to realize that

there is not even a mention of the literally millions of civilians in

those countries, millions of people of color who have died senseless,

cruel deaths at the hands of the most powerful military force in human


Those men who send our young, who are disproportionately youth of color,

those men who send them to war do not even acknowledge the massive

deaths of people who are not white. These wars and the racism that feed

the machinery of war and empire-building must be stopped!

When we come together in the glory of our diversity, there is no power

than can stop us!

When we bring together our struggles for housing and quality public

schools and health care and jobs for all — when we bring that together

with our struggle against war — we are truly a force to contend with!

And when our work against the evils of racism and poverty and militarism

is tied to our dream of a future where justice and peace are the

norms,l then surely we will have the power to win!

And to do that, we must stand truly united for peace and justice!

Thank you.