President Obama talks to Tom Joyner about 50th anniversary of Selma

President Obama will address history in a speech from Selma, Alabama this Saturday. On Friday, March 5, he spoke with Tom Joyner and Sybil Wilkes on Joyner’s nationally syndicated radio program, “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” about the legacy of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, the problems American still faces and what he hopes his daughters — who will accompany him along with First Lady Michelle Obama — will gain from their first visit to the historic city.
Take a look at what President Obama told Joyner:
TOM JOYNER:  Good morning, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good morning, Tom. How are you doing, man?
TOM: I’m doing good, and I’m ready for the celebration in Selma. I will be joining you tomorrow morning, Saturday morning, in Selma.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s going to be a magnificent celebration and I’m really looking forward not just to being there myself, but to having the chance to take Michelle and the girls down there. You know, Malia and Sasha haven’t been down there. And for them to be able to see this place where, you know, at a crossroads in our history, the kind of America that we all believe in was championed and ultimately vindicated. That’s a powerful thing.
SYBIL: How great is that? That is powerful.
TOM: It is.
TOM: How old were you? This was 50 years ago.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Yeah, I was three when this happened.
TOM: So when did you find out about Selma? And when did you realize its significance to our people?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I’ll tell you, it was really my mother when I was pretty young, six, seven, eight. You know, she would give me sort of children’s books about the civil rights movement. Or she played Mahalia Jackson songs. And just give me that sense of this great inheritance that we had. And that’s part of what, you know, I want to communicate to my girls but also to the country is, you know, this was a quintessentially American moment. America, at its best, is about its capacity for change. And not just denying problems, but taking them head on. And America at its best is also about ordinary people, citizens, we the people, making change.  And there are very few examples in American history, or human history, where that basic notion of, you know, maids, and Pullman porters and, you know, young white priests traveling from Massachusetts, and rabbis and just, you know, people without high office or great wealth.
TOM: Right.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Just coming together and saying we’re going to stand up for what’s true and what’s right. And then to see the most powerful nation on earth change because of that.  That is, you know, that’s the thing that I think I want everybody to understand because so often, you know, during Black History Month our kids are watching, you know, Dr. King, the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, even the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. It starts seeming very far away and very distant. And the great thing about, I think, the celebration tomorrow is for people to say, first of all, this was just yesterday, basically. It didn’t, it wasn’t, you know, way back in the past—this just happened. And the people who were there are still around.
Listen to the entire interview here on

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