March on Washington for Jobs & Justice
24th National Commeration of Martin Luther King, Jr's Birth
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
17 January 2011
As I face the Washington Monument -- this sacred American landmark -- and my "excalibur of justice," I feel awed by all of you who have joined this March for Jobs and Justice. Today, we marched in honor of two of the greatest Americans in whose legacy we stand -- Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Building on the foundation of those who came before us, I am inviting you to commit today to build a 21st century "Era of Justice," where liberty and justice for all becomes a way of life for all.
Last week's tragic explosion of violence in Arizona, shocked my soul and mobilized my sense that our country is ailing, when six everyday Americans, including a 9-year-old child were needlessly killed, and more than a dozen others were seriously wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. We send all of our prayers of healing and strength to all those affected and we pray for the full recovery of all those wounded.
These events remind us that the American dream is extremely fragile and affirm my belief that we are at the cusp of an historic crossroads. As so many Americans are caught in a cycle of hopelessness and cynicism, our political process is now broken and government is failing to solve ever-worsening domestic and global challenges. However, I strongly believe we can rapidly overcome joblessness, indebtedness, deteriorating health, address global challenges and repair our polarized and paralyzed government.
Today, I stand here before you to declare that I am committed to relentlessly working together with all of you and all Americans who choose this opportunity to create a new "Justice Movement" that will assert bold "American" ideas for transforming our country and our World.
I am so proud to stand today with the other "everyday" Americans who spoke at this rally, as we genuinely represent diverse countries-of-origin, skin tones, genders, and political ideas.
Our diversity today, also includes political party affiliations, as today we have Republicans (R), Independents (I), and Democrats (D). I call this the "R"-"I"-"D" political party spectrum, or "RID", because I am standing for the possibility of getting "RID" of the vitriolic, divisive, and destructive dialogue being practiced by some people in those communities. When are we going to end political hate speech that dominates our media and election system? When?
The American Revolutionary War was won not by a single individual but by a diversity of patriots, among them President James Madison, our fourth President, who was the principal author of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Madison told us that "Justice is the end-[goal] of government [and] the end-[goal] of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until... obtained, or until liberty [is] lost in the pursuit."
His words are meaningful to me, because for the past 25 years, I have served as a physician and an advocate for global peace and justice. While serving in Zambia, a small country in southern Africa, for 6 years in the 1990s, I learned a slogan that helped me take urgent action to save each and every life possible. The Zambian slogan is a twist on the American saying "All talk, no action." Zambians dismiss empty talk as more of the same "jaw-jaw." Instead, they seek urgent action "Now, Now!!" Please, say it with me: "Now! Now!!"
Let me tell you what justice means to me. Justice means that the rich do not get richer on the backs of the poor and middle class. It means that when the gap today between the richest and poorest Americans has reached a record level -- double the previous high in 1968, when Martin Luther King and Robert Francis Kennedy were assassinated -- we do not deliberately lard more and more tax cuts to the wealthiest and most privileged Americans.
Justice means that when tens of millions of Americans struggle to survive economically, living paycheck to paycheck because they are jobless or underemployed; with millions of hardworking Americans falling into homelessness and bankruptcy; where our seniors are left without a means to live with dignity; we must confront the corporations in America that now sit on more than $1.5 trillion in cash reserves.
Justice means that when our men and women serving in the military, veterans and their families, who sacrifice their lives and a normal family life for our freedom, see their paychecks frozen, while at the same time Wall Street traders grumble about the size of six-figure bonuses and Fortune 500 companies report soaring profits, we must remedy these injustices with urgency.
And so I ask you: When will we achieve economic justice & create jobs for all? When? (response, "Now!, Now!!")
Justice means that when the Supreme Court hands down a decision like the recent Citizens United ruling, which enshrines secret and unlimited corporate funding of political campaigns, we must consider taking collective and urgent action to enact electoral reform to promote the just financing of elections, perhaps even through a Constitutional Convention, if that is what's needed.
Justice means that our government should be running "by the people and for the people" -- including equal representation of women at all political levels. For example, in the recent 2010 election, only 11 percent of younger voters voted; voters were 78 percent white and only 22 percent minority, yet minorities account for 44 percent of the population. While women represent 52% of the population, they represent only 17 % of the Senate.
When so many Americans are so resigned that they don't vote, those that do vote may be electing politicians who don't represent the actual values and beliefs of the majority of Americans. Let me repeat this key point...
When are we going to return our government to a government by-the-people and for-the-people? When? (response: Now! Now!!)
We were warned about the power of corporate greed by President Dwight Eisenhower as he left office, when he said that we must, "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence... by the military-industrial complex." Today, I would extend that to the pharmaceutical, agricultural, energy, guns, insurance, and Wall Street financial services industries. However, the most insidious -- is the "addictive behavior" industry that floods the marketplace and incentivizes addiction to junk food, violent entertainment, and tobacco.
All of these corporate-industrial complexes are ensnarling the American people, our families, and our government in an intractable quagmire where the government is run "by-the-corporations; for-the-corporations" -- or in other words, we are living under a Corporate Economic Order, or CEO. Under this system, life-threatening domestic and global challenges are left unaddressed and allowed to worsen year by year.
Now, let me be clear. It is my strongly held view that the vast majority of Americans who work for corporations are actually great, patriotic Americans who also stand for justice, just like you and I. These patriots have unleashed "American ideas" through breakthrough entrepreneurial ingenuity and innovation. In my mind, American ingenuity should be relentlessly deployed to serve justice for all, rather than line the pockets of a few greedy CEOs, so that they can buy larger and more homes, cars, & toys.
And so I ask you: When will we demand an end to the Corporate Economic Order (CEO) that is destroying the American Dream? When? (response: "Now!, Now!!")
Justice means that we have to face the reality that America's health care system remains broken, however, our response cannot be to spend the next two years reversing the progress made over the past two years, rather we must join together now to transform the system into a "justice-based health system" that holds itself accountable for measurable improvements in the health outcomes of all Americans.
So I ask you, When do we want a "Justice-based Health System in America? When? (response: Now! Now!!)
On a urgent -- potentially lifesaving -- global matter, the United States, recently broke it's commitment to fulfill its fair-share contribution to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, choosing instead to short-change it by $2 billion -- leaving millions of people around the world to die from AIDS, and millions of children unnecessarily orphaned. All of the historic progress made over the past decade could now be lost.
When will we choose to create an HIV-free generation, with zero new infections, zero AIDS deaths, zero discrimination and zero person-to-person sexual violence? When? (response: "Now!, Now!!")
The Global Fund is contributing significantly to winning the battle against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, and is proving itself to be the World's most effective performance-based international organization ever created in human history, helping slash new HIV infections by 17% and saving at least to 6 million lives over the past 8 years, in 140 countries around the World -- results that weren't seen as possible, even a few short years ago.
Therefore, I am proposing that stakeholders adopt the Global Fund's performance-based approach, and urgently adapt it to other complex global challenges, as part of establishing a new, high-performing organization. I am proposing that the Global Fund join forces with others, such as the proposed Global Fund for Education, the Clean Water-for-All Fund, the Global Climate Fund, to form the "Global Peace Organization or (GPO)." My idea is that GPO would be complementary to the ongoing role of the United Nations, yet, it would be designed to rapidly accelerate urgent action on the most pressing global challenges.
When do we want the USA to play our fair share role to stabilize Earth's climate; control disease, poverty and suffering around the World? When? (response: Now! Now!!)
These "justice ideals" are not new. Economic justice, electoral justice and health justice, have long been part of the American idea. Please, remember, President Abraham Lincoln told us once before that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
Today's America, is divided against itself, as we are tragically polarized on issues of economic security, national security, health care, political hate speech, as well as, on the environment, education, immigration, gun control and the most basic personal decisions. This cannot stand!
In the 1960s, Dr. King gave us his prognosis: "The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion is all around." As a doctor, I see an even worse situation today. I believe America is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on a breathing machine, and the prognosis is grave. The potential survival of our democracy and our way of life is at risk, and I invite you to take urgent action, Now! Now!!
Dr. King, told us that, "Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars." As I look out upon all of you today, I see the stars of justice in your eyes. I see all of you as heroes for justice. I see your courage and your commitment to reclaiming the American Idea, the American Dream, and the possibility of a 21st century American transformation where serving justice for all, here at home and around the World, becomes a way of life.
Because of the inspiration you are bringing to the creation of the Justice Movement, I'm feeling ready to propose that the Liberty Bell, which stands near Independence Hall in Philadelphia, be adopted as the symbol of our Justice Movement. The Liberty Bell gained iconic stature as it rang during the formation of our country. It regained importance again when abolitionists, demanding an end to slavery, adopted it as their symbol. The Bell's quotation "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," from Leviticus, seems particularly apt for the intentions of the Justice Movement that we are launching today. The time has come for us to join together, and as Dr. King roared that August day from this same sacred place: "Let Freedom Ring!" "Let Freedom Ring!" Let Freedom Ring!"
At this urgent moment in our nation's history, I ask you to make a choice for that committed life: Devote yourselves unrelentingly for justice. No matter your background or political views, please consider joining together to create the new Justice Movement. Later this week, on Thursday, January 20th -- which happens to be the 50th Jubilee anniversary of John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inauguration, and the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's inauguration -- the initiating leaders of the Justice Movement will be convening our first meeting at George Washington University. Stay tuned for more "Justice Movement" action very, very soon!!
As Dr. King told us, we cannot walk alone. The destiny of all Americans is inextricably bound together. My greatest hope is that the Justice Movement will be a way for all of us to stand for justice and for all of us together to "Build the Dream!"
Thank you for being here today, please join with David Newman and let's sing again for the possibility of love, peace, and freedom for us all!
Dr. Paul Zeitz is President & Executive director of the Global Peace Action Network (GPAN)