In the last few months, we’ve been reminded by several key events just how precious are our rights as human beings—and how long and hard some have fought to secure them for us.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court nullified much of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, enabling nine mostly Southern states to make changes to their election laws—redistricting electoral maps, requiring personal identification to vote—without federal approval. The decision highlighted a discrepancy in jurists’—and perhaps society’s—perceptions of whether or not racial barriers to voting rights persist some 48 years later. Many argue they do.
August 26 marked the 93rd anniversary of the day a woman’s right to vote became the law of the land, an event that took place eight days after ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920 and as much as 100 or more years after the battle was begun with fits and starts in Colonial era. By contrast, 92 years after ratification, in the 2012 presidential election, more than 50 percent of votes cast were cast by women.
Two days after the momentous women’s suffrage anniversary, on August 28, a ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at the foot of the memorial to the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln, marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., arguably the world’s greatest advocate for civil rights and non-violent protest, delivered his profound “I Have a Dream” speech. As the tributes showed, the message resonates today.
Some note how far we’ve come while others see how far we still we have to go. No matter the issue, each struggle has begun with a fearless leader possessed of a persevering sense of civic responsibility. Altering the system, changing the status quo, as these events have shown, requires courage for the long haul.
What’s the new frontier? Are we moving toward our goals? Or have we circled back and settled down—in the old camp, on safe ground?