BY BOB MENENDEZ Today, as we inaugurate Barack Obama into his second term as President and celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let us remember January 1st, 1863, when Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago.
Let us remember what it must have meant to every African-American then and what that moment of freedom and justice has come to represent in the long and troubled history of race relations in this nation. Let us also remember that, 100 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and looked down the Mall at thousands of faces, black and white, men and women, young and old, standing together for the cause of freedom.
Now, 150 years to the month after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and just under 50 years after Martin Luther King stood on those steps in Lincoln’s "symbolic shadow," we are about to swear-in the first black President in our nation’s history to a second term. We carry on the cause that every American always be a full-American, a full-citizen, judged not by the "the color of their skin but the content of their character" and that they be given all the rights and liberties afforded by the Constitution.
Abraham Lincoln freed African-Americans from the shameful shackles of slavery. Dr. King led them out of the lingering shadows of segregation and the oppressive yoke of Jim Crow toward a future of hope and a promise of freedom and equality. Every year at this time we remember their lives and legacies all over again and are keenly aware that the task of freedom has fallen to us. Indeed, it is up to us to make King’s dream a reality. And on this day, let us carry forward on our righteous march towards equality and justice.
Bob Menendez is a United States Senator from New Jersey
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"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."- Nelson Mandela
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