14 Powerful Quotes and Photos from President Obama's Selma Speech

It was 50 years ago that hundreds of civil rights activists were brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., while peacefully marching for voting rights. Yesterday, President Obama returned to that historic landmark to commemorate how far we've come—and how far we still have to go. Here are some of the most powerful quotes from his speech.

Taylor Lewis Mar, 09, 2015

1 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history—the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher—met on this bridge."

2 of 14 AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

"We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice."

3 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation."

4 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"They proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate."

5 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon."

6 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors."

7 of 14 AP Photo/Butch Dill

"Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism."

8 of 14 AP Photo/Bill Frakes

"To deny this progress—our progress—would be to rob us of our own agency."

9 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much."

10 of 14 AP Photo/Bill Frakes

"If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now."

11 of 14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?"

12 of 14 Nicole Craine

"We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march."

13 of 14 AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

"Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word 'We.' We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone."

14 of 14 AP Photo/Bill Frakes

"We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise."


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