Following are excerpts from speeches by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jesse Jackson .
. . . Now, where are we gathered? We’re standing at the steps of the United States Capitol. I’m looking at the Washington Monument and beyond it to the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of these United States, and he was the man who allegedly freed us.
Abraham Lincoln saw in his day what President Clinton sees in this day. He saw the great divide between black and white. Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton see what the Kerner Commission saw 30 years ago when they said that this nation was moving toward two Americas: one black, one white, separate and unequal. And the Kerner Commission revisited their findings 25 years later and saw that America was worse today than it was in the time of Martin Luther King Jr. There’s still two Americas: one black, one white, separate and unequal. . . .
Now, the President spoke today and he wanted to heal the great divide. But I respectfully suggest to the President: You did not dig deep enough at the malady that divides black and white in order to affect a solution to the problem.
And so, today, we have to deal with the root so that perhaps a healing can take place. . . .
You came not at the call of Louis Farrakhan, but you have gathered here at the call of God. For it is only the call of almighty God, no matter through whom that call came, that could generate this kind of outpouring. God called us here to this place, at this time, for a very specific reason.
This is a very pregnant moment, pregnant with the possibility of tremendous change in our status in America and in the world. And although the call was made through me, many have tried to distance the beauty of this idea from the person through whom the idea and the call was made.
Some have done it mistakenly. And others have done it in a malicious and vicious manner. Brothers and sisters, there is no human being through whom God brings an idea that history doesn’t marry the idea with that human being no matter what defect was that human being’s character.
You can’t separate Newton from the law that Newton discovered, nor can you separate Einstein from the theory of relativity. It would be silly to try to separate Moses from the Torah or Jesus from the Gospel or Muhammad from the Koran.
When you say Farrakhan, you ain’t no Moses, you ain’t no Jesus and you’re not no Muhammad; you have a defect in your character.
Well, that certainly may be so. However, according to the way the Bible reads, there is no prophet of God written of in the Bible that did not have a defect in his character. But I have never heard any member of the faith of Judaism separate David from the Psalms because of what happened in David’s life, and you’ve never separated Solomon from the building of the Temple because they say he had a thousand concubines, and you never separated any of the great servants of God.
So today, whether you like it or not, God brought the idea through me, and he didn’t bring it through me because my heart was dark. . . . If my heart were that dark, how is the message so bright, the message so clear, the response so magnificent?
And why did we come? We came because we want to move toward a more perfect union. And if you notice, the press triggered every one of those divisions. You shouldn’t come; you’re a Christian. That’s a Muslim thing. You shouldn’t come; you’re too intelligent to follow hate! You shouldn’t come; look at what they did. They excluded women, you see? They played all the cards. They pulled all the strings.
Oh, but you better look again. . . . There’s a new black man. . . .
We are a wounded people, but we’re being healed. But President Clinton, America is also wounded. And there’s hostility now in the great divide between the people. Socially the fabric of America is being torn apart. It’s black against black, black against white, white against white, white against black, yellow against brown, brown against yellow. We are being torn apart. And we can’t gloss it over with nice speeches, Mr. President.
Sir, with all due respect, that was a great speech you made today. And you praised the marchers, and they’re worthy of praise. You honored the marchers, and they are worthy of honor. But of course, you spoke ill indirectly of me, as a purveyor of malice and hatred.
I must hasten to tell you, Mr. President, that I’m not a malicious person, and I’m not filled with malice. But, I must tell you that I come in the tradition of the doctor who has to point out, with truth, what’s wrong. And the pain is that power has made America arrogant. Power and wealth has made America spiritually blind, and the power and the arrogance of America makes you refuse to hear a child of your slaves pointing out the wrong in your society.
But I think if you could clear the scales from your eyes, sir, and give ear to what we say, perhaps, oh perhaps, what these great speakers who spoke before me said, and my great and wonderful brother, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said, and perhaps, just perhaps from the children of slaves might come a solution. . . .
America. America, the beautiful. There’s no country like this on the Earth. And certainly if I lived in another country, I might never have had the opportunity to speak as I speak today. I probably would have been shot outright. . . . But because this is America, you allow me to speak even though you don’t like what I may say. Because this is America, that provision in the Constitution for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, that is your saving grace. . . .
Now brothers, sisters, I want to close this lecture with a special message to our President and to the Congress. There is a great divide, but the real evil in America is not white flesh or black flesh. The real evil in America is the idea that undergirds the setup of the Western world. And that idea is called white supremacy.
White supremacy is the enemy of both white people and black people because the idea of white supremacy means you should rule because you’re white. That makes you sick. And you’ve produced a sick society and a sick world. The Founding Fathers meant well, but they said, “toward a more perfect union.” Mr. Clinton, we’re going to do away with the mind-set of the Founding Fathers. You don’t have to repudiate them like you’ve asked my brothers to do me. You don’t have to say they were malicious, hate-filled people. But you must evolve out of their mind-set. . . .
Here’s the carcass, the remains of a once-mighty people, dry bones in the valley, a people slain from the foundation of the world. But God hath sent the winds to blow on the bones. One of those winds is named Gingrich, and the companion wind is named Dole. And the other is called Supreme Court decisions. The other is fratricidal conflict, drugs and dope and violence and crime. But we’ve had enough now. This is why you’re in Washington today.
Black man, you don’t have to bash white people. All we’ve got to do is go back home and turn our communities into productive places. . . .
We must become a totally organized people, and the only way we can do that is to become a part of some organization that is working for the uplift of our people. Now, brothers, moral and spiritual renewal is a necessity. Every one of you must go back home and join some church, synagogue, temple, or mosque that is teaching spiritual and moral uplift.
Brothers, when you go home, we’ve got to register 8 million eligible but unregistered brothers, sisters. So you go home and find eight more like yourself. You register and get them to.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson
In the spirit of atonement, we pray to God to forgive us for our sins and the foolishness of our ways as we seek to do better and never to become bitter, and let nothing, nobody stand between us and the love of God.
The idea of a million men has touched a nerve deep in the hearts of people yearning to breathe free. Big meetings were never allowed on the plantation. We’ve always yearned for a big meeting. Today we’ve left the plantation. This is a big meeting.
Raw nerves of ancient longing for dignity have been touched. . . . America will benefit and ultimately be grateful for this day. When the rising tide for racial justice and gender equality and family stability lifts the boats stuck at the bottom, all boats benefit.
Why are we here today? Because we’re under attack by the courts, legislatures, mass media. We’re despised. Racists attack us for sport to win votes. We’re attacked for sport to make money. But I tell you today, rabbit hunting ain’t fun when the rabbits stop running and start fighting back.
Here we are in 1995 trying to stop 1996 from becoming like 1896, the end of the second Reconstruction. Mr. Muhammad said: “When we come into ourselves and know our truer selves, we’ll have our place in the sun.” Fannie Lou Hamer said: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Sojourner Truth said to the feminist movement as she sought justice between white and black women: “Ain’t I a woman?” Martin Luther King Jr. said, when he rescued Rosa Parks: “Better to walk in dignity than ride in shame.”
Why are we here today? Because we will not surrender; we will not bow. We choose life. But if we must die, let it be nobly and not like dogs. . . .
Now we have the burden of two Americas: one-half slave and one-half free. Lincoln said it could not exist.
Why was the reaction to the O.J. verdict so different? Because there were wounds unhealed. There was more bile and venom toward that integrated jury that voted unanimous than the racist policeman who perjured himself. Why did blacks and whites see it so differently? One man standing up, looking down on an apple, sees red and that which is delectable. Another man standing on the bottom, looking up, sees rot and sees worms. We all have a right to eat the fruit. None should have the obligation to eat the worms and eat the rot. We want an America for all of us to play on an even playing field, by one set of rules.
Why march? Father King said it was the shameful condition of the Negro. Today, it’s disgraceful. Why do we march? Because our babies die earlier, infant mortality. Why do we march? Because we’re less able to get a primary or secondary education. Why do we march? Because the media stereotypes us. We are projected as less intelligent than we are, less hard-working than we work, less universal than we are, less patriotic than we are, and more violent than we are.
Why do we march? We’re less able to borrow money in a system built on credit and risk: San Diego, California, 30,000 mortgage loans, 29 to blacks. Why do we march? Because we’re trapped with second-class schools and first-class jails. What is the crisis? Wealth going upward; jobs going outward. Middle class coming downward; the poor expanding rapidly.