Jobs, Justice and the American Dream

by Zachary Langway | August 26, 2011 11:16 am

The following remarks were delivered by Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO and a Center for Community Change board member, at today’s symposium, “Jobs, Justice and the American Dream.”

This has been an historic week in Washington, D.C. in many ways.  As we all know, the unveiling of the Martin Luther Memorial has been postponed as the Eastern Sea Board is in the path of Hurricane Irene.  Natural disasters we cannot control — but it is the man-made disasters, ones we will talk about today, that we have the power to change the direction of if we so choose.

We are reminded on this day of that march on Washington 48 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. moved our people and our nation to embrace his dream of America — a dream that he and the march’s originator, the legendary African American Labor Leader, A. Philip Randolph, shared.

When Martin Luther King III and the AFL-CIO begin talking about co-hosting a Jobs and Justice Symposium — during this historic weekend — we knew that we wanted to highlight the needs of America’s struggling families -– the families that Dr. King devoted his life to fighting for.

We wanted to hear from those who are unemployed, but want to work — hear from academics who study the effects of economic and social injustice on our communities ‑‑hear from students who dare to dream — hear from workers who want justice and a voice at work — and hear from civil rights legends who have devoted their lives in search of the American Dream.

For months now, the lives of millions of Americans have been shaken up by economic uncertainty.  Just as our Nation’s Capitol literally shook this week, we hope that discussions like the one we will have today will shake our elected officials to move with boldness and a fierce urgency of NOW.    We call on our leaders to respond to the desperate cries of the people for jobs and justice.

Today, many wonder — where will we go from here?  Will the unveiling of the King Memorial rekindle in all who truly love justice and freedom a renewed sense of movement unity — Blacks and Whites, Immigrants, Young and Old, Workers and the Unemployed, Gay and Straight?

It is up to us whether we choose “Chaos or Community.”

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