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President Obama speaks about Martin Luther King: 'He gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions'

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Barack Obama
Gary Miller/WireImage

President Obama delivered a 30-minute speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial this afternoon as part of a day-long event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A  Dream” speech.

The broadcast channels cut away from regular programming around 2:40 p.m. ET Wednesday for live coverage. President Obama began speaking at 3:05 p.m., praising Dr. King by saying, “He gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions.” The speech (which you can read in full here) discussed the significance of that day 50 years ago but also the hard work people have been doing in the years since, as well as the goals Americans still have left to accomplish.

“We would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose named never appeared in the history books, never got on TV….,” he said. “In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us.”

After remarking and praising the significance of the day, President Obama turned the conversation forward, and focused on how Americans can achieve equal access to opportunity today. “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own,” he said. “…And we’ll suffer the occasional setback, but we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. People of goodwill, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents.”

President Obama ended the speech by saying, “Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day, that change does not come from Washington but to Washington. The change has always been built on our willingness. We, the people, to take on the mantle of citizenship, you are marching. That’s the lesson of our past. That’s the promise of tomorrow. That in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. When millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low and those rough places will be made plain and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrifice so much and live up to the true mean manager of our creed as one nation under god, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”