The following post appears courtesy of Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. Forty-nine years ago today, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered in National Mall for the March on Washington. United and unrelenting, they called on our nation to live up to its fundamental ideals of limitless opportunity and of liberty and equality for all. In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his “Dream” of a more just, more free, and more perfect union. His presence showcased the difference that a single individual can make. His vision stirred Americans of all ages, races, and backgrounds into action. And his speech established the creed that guided those committed to the cause of justice and equality. Dr. King declared:
"Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy . . . now is the time to make justice a reality for all God's children."
Those words were true in 1963, and they remain just as true today. So as we join to remember the immense sacrifice front line generals like Dr. King made in the face of bigotry and violence, we are also presented with an important opportunity to rededicate ourselves to their noble cause and to forge ahead. In the nearly five decades since the March, there is no question that America has made great strides on freedom’s trail. There’s no doubt that if Dr. King were here with us today, he would feel a great sense of accomplishment at the steps we have taken toward his fulfilling his vision of racial, social, and economic justice. Last week, U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance and I announced the formation of the new Civil Rights Enforcement Unit in the Northern District of Alabama. There, I spoke of how the new unit will enhance the ability of the U.S. Attorney to carry on Dr. King’s legacy. Steps away from where we spoke, in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, stood a replica of the jail cell where Dr. King wrote his letter from Birmingham nearly half a century ago. It was a powerful reminder of all we carry forward. It was also a reminder of how far we have left to travel. If Dr. King were here today, I have no doubt that he would be leading efforts across the country to combat violence against Sikhs, Muslims, and other religious minorities. He would continue to fight for equal education opportunity for all students. He would continue efforts to ensure that all eligible Americans have the right to vote, the most fundamental and powerful right in our democracy. Living in Dr. King’s legacy, we take very seriously our responsibility to enforce civil rights laws in a wide array of contexts. We continue to prosecute hate crimes, expand educational opportunities, ensure workplace fairness, and address longstanding and emerging civil rights challenges. And we continue to review state voting laws carefully and independently to ensure that every eligible voter can take part in the democratic process. That is why we have taken vigorous steps to defend citizens' voting rights by enforcing laws that protect servicemembers and overseas citizens’ right to vote; that make sure no citizen is excluded from the electoral process because of language barriers; that increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote, and that ensure accurate registration lists; and that require non-discrimination on the basis of race when setting voting rules and drawing district lines. In short, Dr. King would not rest. He would be the first to remind us that there is still more to do, because for so many of our neighbors, true equal opportunity and true equal justice remain just out of reach. As the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, it is my privilege and duty to continue Dr. King’s journey to fight such injustice. And despite the challenges before us, I am proud to report that under this Administration, the critical work of the Civil Rights Division – to expand opportunity for all people, to safeguard the fundamental infrastructure of our democracy, and to protect the most vulnerable among us – has never been stronger. The unfinished struggle for equal opportunity and justice is one in which we all have a part. Today, we remember the legacy of the heroes of the civil rights movement together, and Dr. King’s dream serves as our most powerful guidepost. The best tribute we can pay to those heroes is to continue protecting all they achieved, to aggressively and fairly enforce our all of our nation’s civil rights laws, and, as Dr. King said forty-nine years ago today, to “always march ahead.”