Loretta Lynch issued a call to action when she delivered her final speech as Attorney General at 16th Street Baptist Church during a commemoration service for Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday.
Lynch spoke of the progress this country has made since King spoke at the historical church in 1963 just days after a bomb killed four little girls getting ready for worship. That was just three weeks after his hopeful “I Have A Dream Speech.” She said King’s message at the church, which President Barack Obama named a civil rights national monument recently, was to not despair or become bitter, but to “work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”
Though Lynch, named the first black woman Attorney General in 2015, spoke of the progress that Obama and the Justice Department have made for many Americans, she used King’s message as the answer to attaining progress today.
“[O]ur work is far from finished,” she said. “I know that while our accomplishments should make us proud, they must not make us complacent. I know that in our pursuit of a brighter future, we still face the headwinds of hatred, intolerance and injustice – winds that often seem to grow stronger the more we achieve.”
She went on to address the anxieties that many Americans are experiencing with President-elect Donald Trump without mentioning him by name.
“I know that we are in difficult days now. Many worry that Dr. King’s dream – and all that has flowed from it – is at risk like never before,” she said. But she said the work that people from communities across the country have been doing to ensure that equality becomes a reality.
“Yes, these are challenging times and yes we undoubtedly have more challenges to come,” Lynch continued. “But many of our greatest strides, in equal rights, in human rights, in civil rights have come after some of our most heartbreaking losses.”
She challenged the audience to carry the torch of King’s dream and strive for a better democracy.
“Over 200 years ago, we decided what kind of a country we wanted to be,” Lynch said. “And we haven’t gotten there yet. Our way forward has not always been on the path called straight. But we are Americans, and we have always pushed forward. And what we have learned from all our challenges is not that our values are not true and good, but that every generation must commit to them and work to make them real for the challenges of their time.”
Read her full speech here.