Fifty years after the historic March on Washington, Hollywood stars including Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker and Jamie Foxx stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic speech, to share the lessons learned from the civil rights leader.
The two stars of “Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’ ” paid tribute to the civil rights pioneer for his vision of racial equality in America. Oprah Winfrey said at the March on Washington ceremonies Wednesday that King forced the nation “to wake up, look at itself and eventually change.”
“I remember when I was 9 years old, and I asked my mama, ‘Can I go to the march?’” Winfrey said while looking out to a crowd at the National Mall. “It took me 50 years, but I’m here.”
Winfrey also said that by sharing his vision for America, King “awakened the conscience of a nation and inspired people all over the world.” She said that King recognized a destiny that intertwined all humans, and that Wednesday marked a day of reflection on “the progress that has been made” but also “on the work that still remains.”
She said Dr. King challenged everyone to notice their similarities over their differences, and that everyone should ask themselves how Dr. King’s dream will live on.
Her co-star, Forest Whitaker, told the crowd that he was honored and humbled to be included in the ceremony.
“We all share a common bond. Your presence here today shows you care and want to bring more peace, love and harmony to the world,” Whitaker said. “Together, we must embrace this moment.”
“As the bell rings today, my dream is that something will resonate inside you and me that will remind us each of our common bond,” Whitaker said, before ending his remarks with a quote from King’s “I have a dream” speech. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”
Taking a different approach, Jamie Foxx told the audience, “I’m not even probably going to read from the teleprompter because I’m just going to speak from my heart.”
“I’m going to tell you right now that everybody my age, and all the entertainers, it’s time for us to stand up now and renew this dream,” Foxx said. “That’s what we gotta do.”
Foxx said he felt he needed to speak up after recent news events. ”I was affected by the Trayvon Martin situation, I was affected by Newtown, I was affected by Sandy Hook,” he said. “It’s time for us now to pick up.”
The actor told the crowd a conversation he and his 19-year-old daughter had over dinner with civil rights leader and legendary musician Harry Belafonte, who told them about marching with Dr. King in protest of Jim Crow laws.
“What we need to do now is the young folks pick it up now, so that when we’re 87 years old, talking to the young folks, we can say it was me, Will Smith, Jay Z, Kanye, Alicia Keys, Kerry Washington, the list goes on and on,” Foxx said.