Washington, D.C. — Patrick Gaspard, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, released the following statement in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is our nation’s only civil rights holiday. While I hope every American reflects on Dr. King’s life of leadership and service today, this day is also about a broader struggle that predated Dr. King and that we are still fighting today. Dr. King was a member of the essential generation that moved America in closer alignment to its founding principles of liberty and freedom. His generation’s sacrifices on voting and economic advancement didn’t only serve African Americans. Their organizing for the ballot has benefited rural white voters in Texas and Native Americans in Montana. They helped pave the way for gender equality and the fight against racial and economic injustice everywhere.
But while the world has changed over the past half-century, we still, and perhaps increasingly, find ourselves out of alignment with our foundational ideals. Just the other night, a former president was exhorting his supporters to sabotage elections while promoting ugly and false racial grievances. Several of our most powerful lawmakers are refusing to protect voting rights out of fealty to a legislative maneuver that’s historically been used to block progress on civil rights. Long-needed economic and climate legislation that would make a historic investment in family caregivers, who are disproportionately women of color, has stalled in the face of lobbying by powerful interests.
It would be a wonderful tribute to both Dr. King and Rep. John Lewis to pass these critical measures in their honor. But the truth is these pieces of legislation are about more than just their legacies; they are about the future of our country and our willingness to shore up our nation in its most fragile moment since the civil rights era.