Video: Obama’s Selma Speech and the Poets

(30 minutes) President Obama delivers remarks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, marking the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery. Rumor has it that Obama wrote most of this speech himself. We glimpse the best of Obama and the best of the American story. (Read the transcript here.)

Who was Edmund Pettus? See here. Learn why this bridge in Selma is part of a long contest of wills in America.

The president quotes Langston Hughes, Emerson, and Walt Whitman, so I’ve included the sources for those quotes below:

“We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.” From the 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” by Langston Hughes

“Not gold but only men can make / A people great and strong;/ Men who for truth and honor’s sake / Stand fast and suffer long.” From the poem “A Nation’s Strength” by William Ralph Emerson (not Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” From Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” From Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

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