Leslie Cagan, United for Peace & Justice, 8/28/2003
Remarks by Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice
Rally commemorating 40th Anniversary of 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, DC
August 23, 2003, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
As a teenager 40 years ago I came to this place as part of that historic
march for freedom, for justice, for equality. Today I stand before you
honored and humbled as we recall our history of struggle and re-commit
ourselves to the work ahead.
I stand here as a Jew, as part of a community of Jews who have never
broken with the civil rights movement, and who today work against racial
profiling and police brutality and discrimination in housing and
education and on the job. We are proud to be part of a movement that
includes not only Christians and Muslims and Jews, but also Hindus and
Buddhists and Sikhs and people of all faiths, and non-believers and
atheists. We are proud to be part of a movement of African Americans,
Latinos and Latinas, Asian and Pacific Islanders, the Native people of
this land and white people, and especially, at this moment of our
history, a movement that includes and welcomes Arabs and Arab Americans.
But here today, as we celebrate our history and are joyful in our
diversity, I stand here with a heavy heart. While progress has been made
these 40 years, the inhumanity of racism and sexism and homophobia
brings pain and suffering to millions of people every day. We all know
the struggle for freedom and justice is far, very far, from over.
And my heart is heavy because as we stand here today U.S. troops are
still occupying Iraq in the aftermath of an unjust, immoral and illegal
military invasion. The war against Iraq should never have happened, and
I say to George Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Colin
Powell and Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the war-mongers. YOU WERE
WRONG AND WE WERE RIGHT, YOU ARE STILL WRONG AND WE ARE STILL RIGHT!
This occupation must end. Our service people are dying everyday day.
They must be brought home and the people of Iraq must be allowed to
determine their own destiny.
Today, instead of our money going into our schools and health care and
the other things our communities need, instead our money is used to help
maintain the deadly Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Our
tax dollars go to maintain U.S. military bases in every corner of the
Earlier today I walked around the area here and it seemed at every turn
I bumped into another monument to war. It is horrible to see the number
of U.S. service people killed in Korea and Vietnam and in other U.S.
military actions. But I must tell you, it is HORRIFYING to realize that
there is not even a mention of the literally millions of civilians in
those countries, millions of people of color who have died senseless,
cruel deaths at the hands of the most powerful military force in human
Those men who send our young, who are disproportionately youth of color,
those men who send them to war do not even acknowledge the massive
deaths of people who are not white. These wars and the racism that feed
the machinery of war and empire-building must be stopped!
When we come together in the glory of our diversity, there is no power
than can stop us!
When we bring together our struggles for housing and quality public
schools and health care and jobs for all — when we bring that together
with our struggle against war — we are truly a force to contend with!
And when our work against the evils of racism and poverty and militarism
is tied to our dream of a future where justice and peace are the
norms,l then surely we will have the power to win!
And to do that, we must stand truly united for peace and justice!