"In 2000 we lost South Carolina by 40,000 votes, but 40,000 blacks were unregistered, and lost Georgia by 30,000 votes with 600,000 blacks unregistered. Hands that pick cotton cannot pick presidents. Every election lost is by the margin of unregistered voters."
Walter E. Faudroy, who helped plan the 1983 and 1993 memorial rallies, called the 2003 convocation the "most serious follow-up to the march since 1963. We can't afford a one-day demonstration but a need fifteen-month demonstration starting today and ending November 2, 2004." He recalled the gains produced by earlier activism: the repeal of segregation and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1963. He suggested the goal of registering fifty million new voters for election 2004.
"We can do it if we put our minds and hearts to it. Let's give Martin Luther King Jr. a birthday present!" he concluded.
Dick Gregory delivered closing thoughts to end the four-hour rally of thousands that had by then dwindled to a handful, who were treated to a recording of King's immortal speeches as many of us proceeded to review the statue of Lincoln: what a heartening combination of precedents to empower us for the uphill months to come. I turned to a companion and said that the very fact such great heroes had existed was reassurance enough that we were capable of producing more; there was still room for optimism amid the present chaotic situation in Washington and the world.