Thomas Calhoun: 'We have to fulfill the dream of equality and justice'

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'We have to fulfill the dream of equality and justice'

Thomas Calhoun

I wasn't old enough to attend the 1963 March on Washington. I was around 13 years old, and not quite old enough to understand all of the issues, but I did live through those times. My first 11 years of school, I attended segregated, all-black schools.

Because of the persistence of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and so many others, I was finally able to go to an integrated school, and I've lived to see the election of the first African American president. That's something I never dreamed would happen in my lifetime, or even in my children's lifetime. The feeling I had when I received an opportunity to meet with President Obama in the White House is indescribable.

I'm bringing a busload of Norfolk Federation of Teachers members and community members to the Aug. 24 march to try to encourage people to see just how far we have to go to fulfill the dream of equality and justice for all. I hope that the march will be the beginning of renewed community action in Norfolk and around the country.

It's clear—from the events surrounding Trayvon Martin to the recent Supreme Court ruling on voting rights—that we have a long way to go. When you look at what's happening to voting rights in states throughout the South, it looks a lot like what was going on when I was a kid nearly 50 years ago.

I'm hoping this march will inspire people in my son's generation to act. I hope kids in the millennial generation will turn out in mass. They are the ones who will need to carry on the torch.

Thomas Calhoun is the president of the Norfolk (Va.) Federation of Teachers.