Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 march on Washington The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 march on Washington. Credit: Reuters

An address by PresidentBarack Obamaand nationwide bell-ringing will cap celebrations on Wednesday marking the 50th anniversary of civil rights leaderMartinLutherKing Jr.'s landmark "I Have a Dream" speech.

Obama will speak during the Let Freedom Ring and Call to Action commemoration on the steps ofWashington's Lincoln Memorial, the site ofKing's address on Aug. 28, 1963, theWhite Housesaid. [embedgallery id=209503]

Other speakers include former presidentsJimmy CarterandBill Clinton. The ceremony will follow an interfaith service at ShilohBaptist Churchin Washington, organizers said.


The speech by Obama, the first black U.S. president, will come as almost half of Americans say much more needs to be done before the color-blind society thatKing envisioned is realized.

Obama said last week that the legacy of discrimination had left a persistent economic gap between blacks and whites, but that the civil rights movement's impulse for equality had spread to Hispanics, immigrants, gays and others.

"What's wonderful to watch is that ... each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly and do the right thing and not discriminate," he told aBinghamton Universityaudience inVestal,N.Y. "That's a great victory that we should all be very proud of."

TheLincoln Memorialceremony will include bell-ringing at 3 p.m. (EDT), 50 years to the minute afterKingended his call for racial and economic justice with the words "let freedom ring."

About 50 communities and organizations around theUnited Stateshave said they will ring bells. The Swiss city ofLutryandTokyoare also taking part, saidAtlanta'sKingCenter, one of the event's organizers.

Other organizers include theNational ActionNetwork of civil rights leader and talk show hostAl Sharpton, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Churches.

A Jobs and Justice march before the event is expected to snarl traffic around the Mall, an open area spanning 2 miles from the Capitol west to theLincoln Memorial.

Obama's address will wrap up more than a week of Washington events marking the 50th anniversary ofKing's address. They included seminars, conferences and a march on Saturday that drew tens of thousands of people urging action on jobs, voting rights and gun violence.

"What we must do is we must give our young people dreams again," Sharpton told marchers.

King, a black clergyman and advocate of nonviolent resistance, was among six organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where he made his address.

King's address is credited with helping spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year. A white prison escapee assassinated the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1968.

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