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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Delivers Remarks at 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington Luncheon

Reince Priebus - August 26, 2013

RNC Luncheon Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington

Washington, DC

August 26, 2013

Remarks Excerpts As Prepared For Delivery

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Congressman Sensenbrenner, for your thoughts and your leadership.

As Chairman of the RNC, I wanted us to take the time this week to honor such a momentous event in history. And I’ll try to keep my remarks brief because the presence of everyone here today already says so much. The response to this event has been tremendous, and we’re grateful for that.

I look around this room filled with people who have witnessed history and made history, and I have to say it’s a real privilege and blessing to commemorate this occasion with each and every one of you.

Bob Brown, you sat at the table with Dr. King—you worked with a president for the cause of equality—and you visited Nelson Mandela in prison. We all just want to keep learning from you and what you’ve seen.

Bob Woodson, you’ve dedicated your life to building communities and transforming lives, schools, and neighborhoods. You’re a blessing to so many.

Speaker Shannon, I think we can say your success embodies how far we’ve come as a nation.

And Jimmy Kemp, thank you for carrying on the vision of your beloved father—that the American Dream should be in reach for all Americans.

It’s wonderful to have representatives from the civil rights community, the NAACP, the Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and so many other organizations.

At our core, we’re all fighting, in our own ways, for a better country. It’s so good that we can come together for an event like this. It’s something we don’t do enough.

***

Now, today is not about partisan politics. But I do want to take this chance to share just a few thoughts about what an anniversary like this means for us as a party, today and in the future.

When Dr. King spoke to the crowd not far from here, he said “1963 is not an end, but a beginning.”

So fifty years later, as we look back, this commemoration isn’t just about the past. If 1963 was a beginning…if the March for Jobs and Freedom was the first step…where do we stand fifty years down the road? Where do we stand a half century along the journey? 

Certainly, America has come a long way. On Wednesday, fifty years to the day after Dr. King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, America’s first black president will address the crowd that gathers. And all Americans recognize the incredible significance.

But, there’s still work to be done. Marchers came to Washington in 1963 to claim their right to the American Dream. For those of us in politics or public life today, we can’t rest until that dream is in reach for every American.

So an anniversary like this isn’t just a call to remembrance. It’s a call to action. As Americans, what can we do for the cause of justice and opportunity…for the marchers’ cause of “jobs and freedom?”

We’ve got to keep working until every American has a fair shot. Until jobs are plentiful—and communities are thriving. That means helping black- and minority-owned businesses grow. That means ensuring HBCUs weather these difficult economic times.

And it means fixing our schools. Every child in America deserves a quality education. The chance to attend a good school is the chance to build a good life.

A child’s education shouldn’t be determined by a zip code. No child should be stuck in a failing school. It’s not fair. When children are stuck in failing schools, America is failing its children.

Education is essential to equal opportunity, and opportunity is essential to the American Dream. As Republicans, this is just one area where we can lead.

***

As you many of you know I was raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin—not far from Ripon, Wisconsin, where the Republican Party was born in 1854. Since our party’s very beginning, Republicans have been leaders in issues of civil rights and equal opportunity.

But past accomplishments don’t address the issues of today. Building a better future is up to us. We have to do our part.

And we should draw inspiration from those words that echoed across the National Mall and around the country in 1963. Words that called us to remember the basic promise of America’s founding: that God created us all equal, and all of us deserve an equal chance at making it in this great country.

***

When Dr. King spoke at the March, he spoke of standing in the “symbolic shadow” of the Great Emancipator. Today, we stand in the symbolic shadow of the Great Civil Rights Leader.

And we recommit ourselves to his cause of a better America. To the dream he spoke of, when he quoted Isaiah Chapter 40, and imagined the day that “every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain…made low. The rough places…made plain, and the crooked places...made straight.”

May God bless the legacy of Dr. King and of the March on Washington—and may God guide us in the continued pursuit of what is just and right. Thank you, and God bless.


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