BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)- The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech featured a representative from the city at the heart of the 1960′s Civil Rights Movement. Birmingham Mayor William Bell was on-hand to help celebrate the occasion. He spoke with CBS42 via phone after the event. You can listen to the audio in the video player above, and the full transcript is below.
“Well,I say first of all that it gives great honor to our city that the city of Birmingham through its merit was invited to come be a part of this day, this special day here in the nation’s capital. but it also highlights the importance of Birmingham to the civil rights movement, not just in our own city but throughout this country. I think often times i think our living there in Birmingham, we forget the significance and the important role that Birmingham plays. This event highlighted that, the significant year of 1963 and the importance of Birmingham in those efforts. It gave me a sense of pride, and I think the president’s comment really summed up where people should be in their understanding of what the civil rights movement was really all about. How we must reclaim our legacy and pass that on to the next generation to help correct some of the ills in our society. Dr. King did not suffer and march for us to go out and kill each other. Dr. King did not suffer for us to make excuses for our lack of being educated. We have so many opportunities today and we should not squander those opportunities, and I think that’s what the president, and all the speakers, were really trying to convey. That we have not solved all of the problems in our nation. We have corrected some, but there’s still a lot of issues that we must correct ourselves and we must work collectively to resolve. On a personal level, having grown up in Birmingham and remembering a time when I could never hope or dream of being the mayor of the city of Birmingham that was once segregated. Here I am in the nation’s capital, representing all of the citizens, and that’s only because of the opportunities that I’ve received educationally or employment-wise and many other ways that have led me to the point where I could be mayor. It’s all because of the efforts of Dr. King, Dr.Shuttlesworth,and all those foot soldiers that made it possible for me to live the kind of life that I’ve lived. And like I said, growing up in Birmingham and realizing that I’ve come so far, and there’s so many people who have come so far on the shoulders of those who came before us.”