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Martin Luther King's 'Dream' Speech Celebrated
An address by President Barack Obama has capped celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.
Mr Obama spoke on the steps of Washington's Lincoln Memorial, the site of Dr King's iconic address on August 28, 1963.
"We rightly and best remember Dr King's soaring oratory that day - how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions," Mr Obama said.
"His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.
It was a moment rich with history and symbolism, with the first black president standing where Dr King first sketched his dream.
But Mr Obama also pointed to the nation's lingering economic disparities as evidence that the civil rights leader's hopes remain unfulfilled.
"In too many communities across this country, in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth," the president said.
"And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires.
"It was whether this country would admit all people who are willing to work hard regardless of race into the ranks of a middle-class life," he said.
Prior to Mr Obama stepping to the podium, the same bell was rung that once hung in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, before the church was bombed in 1963.
Two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, spoke movingly of Dr King's legacy, and of problems still to overcome.
"This march, and that speech, changed America," Mr Clinton declared, remembering the impact on the world and himself as a young man.
"They opened minds, they melted hearts and they moved millions - including a 17-year-old boy watching alone in his home in Arkansas."
Mr Carter said Dr King's efforts had helped not just black Americans, but "In truth, he helped to free all people".
Still, Mr Carter listed a string of current events that he said would have spurred Dr King to action in this day, including the proliferation of guns and stand-your-ground laws, a Supreme Court ruling striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act, and high rates of joblessness among blacks.
Oprah Winfrey, leading the celebrity contingent, recalled watching the march as a nine-year-old girl and wishing she could be there to see a young man who "was able to force an entire country to wake up, to look at itself and to eventually change".
"It's an opportunity today to recall where we once were in this nation," she said.
Tens of thousands assembled in soggy weather at the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr King, with rhythmic oratory and a steely countenance, had pleaded with Americans to come together to stomp out racism and create a land of opportunity for all.
Kevin Keefe, a Navy lawyer who is white, said he still tears up when he hears Dr King's speech.
"What happened 50 years ago was huge," he said, adding that there is still progress to be made on economic inequality and other problems.
Dr King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III, just five when his father spoke at the Mall, spoke of a dream "not yet realised" in full.
"We've got a lot of work to do but none of us should be any ways tired," he said. "Why? Because we've come much too far from where we started."
Organisers of the rally broadened the focus well beyond racial issues, bringing speakers forward to address the environment, gay rights, the challenges facing the disabled and more.
The performers, too, were an eclectic crowd, ranging from Maori haka dancers to LeAnn Rimes singing Amazing Grace.
Also joining the day's events were Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of Lyndon Johnson, the president who signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F Kennedy.