Mayor Holt Speaks At 60th Anniversary Of March On Washington

Among the 250-thousand or so who stood out here and heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28th, 1963, was Oklahoma civil rights leader Clara Luper. Among those who spoke in D.C. Saturday was the mayor of the city Luper helped change.

Monday, August 28th 2023, 10:43 pm


President Biden met with relatives of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders at the White House Monday, the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, thanking them for their leadership while noting that another deadly, racially motivated shooting in Florida underscores the fact that much more work is needed.

“Silence is complicity, and we’re not going to remain silent,” Biden said. “So, we have to act against this hate-fueled violence.”

Similar messages rolled across the National Mall Saturday as dozens of leaders, including Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, celebrated the iconic march that culminated with Reverend King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

"There have been countless rallies and marches across this country over the last 250 years," said Mayor Holt in an interview Monday, "but it’s hard to think of one that is more remembered or was more impactful than the March on Washington of 1963."

Like most speakers, Holt was given three minutes and says he did the best he could to get as much in as he possibly could. Most important, he says, was raising awareness of the contributions of Oklahoma City civil rights leader Clara Luper.

"In 1958, Oklahoma City school teacher Clara Luper led a group of 13 children," Holt said Saturday in his speech, "to sit at a lunch counter in downtown Oklahoma City, where they asked to be treated like human beings. They were among the first anywhere to sit down so that others could finally find the courage to stand up.

"Miss Luper and her young people," he continued, "were still hard at work when they came to this March on Washington in 1963 and stood right where we stand today."

Holt says it's been a goal of his since first being elected mayor in 2018 to do a better job of celebrating Oklahoma City's rich civil rights history.

"As I’ve said before, if we’re not going to talk about the story, we can’t expect other people to," Holt explained Monday, "so we’re talking about it now and Saturday was an opportunity to put it on a more national level, and it just meant a lot to me and I hope it meant a lot to the people in Oklahoma City to have Clara Luper‘s name spoken in that venue."

In his speech, Holt also spoke to the understanding Oklahomans have more broadly of discrimination and hatred, recalling the Trail of Tears, the Reign of Terror murders of Osage Indians, the Tulsa Race Massacre, and even the 1995 Murrah bombing. And yet it's clear, he says, that in Oklahoma and across the country, Dr. King's dream has not been realized.

"It’s wonderful the progress that we’ve made out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but to truly deliver equality and equal opportunity in all of our communities, we still have work to do."

Holt says that work is underway in Oklahoma City, but he says it's generational and very hard -- and requires everyone to pull together.

"The moral arc of the universe does not bend itself," Holt said in wrapping up his speech, "We must resolve to see this through together."

Holt says being asked to speak Saturday -- at that place, on that occasion -- was one of the greatest honors of his life.


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