They came by the thousands, and in a show of solidarity, they marched on Washington like civil rights believers did half a century ago.
Former President Clinton called this one of the most important days in American History and, along with other speakers, echoed from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
And many of those quotable lines ring true for issues the nation faces today, even after all these years.
“People need to know from whence we came. I think it’s gotten lost because a lot of it isn’t taught or the just don’t know," said Veronica Davila.
Irene Brown from Connecticut added, “It’s very exciting, and then it’s also kind of sobering because we’ve made a lot of progress, but we have a lot more to do.”
When Congressman John Lewis – the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March – stepped up to the pulpit, someone in the crowd yelled, “Take your time, you’ve earned it!”
And in 1963, buses brought marchers to Washington from Hartford and around New England to rally for voting rights and against lynching, battles since won.
But today, the diverse crowd faces new fights: rights for gays and lesbians, and a new fight for voting rights as states like North Carolina enact voter ID requirements, which critics have called voter suppression laws.
“A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon," said former President Bill Clinton.
"From the violence that’s going on in the cities," said Eddie Callahan from New York, "I think we just need to tackle some of these community problems and make a stand.”
And civil rights activists who spoke said decades ago they would never have imagined having a black president.
“Freedom is not given, provided by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed," said President Obama, echoing Dr. King's words.
And at 3 p.m., the exact time when Dr. King spoke 50 years ago, bells around the country tolled, ringing to the same freedom in his dream.
“As the bells toll today," said Oprah Winfrey, "let us ask how will the dream live on in me, in you, in all of us."