Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, said on Friday night that the U.S. is “a different country, and we’re better people” than when he addressed a mass of people on the Mall a half century ago. 

“I must say, I feel more than lucky but very blessed to be able to stand here 50 years later and to see the progress we have made,” Lewis said in an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC.

“And just to see the changes have occurred. If someone had told me 50 years ago that an African-American would be in the White House as the president, I probably would have said you’re crazy. You are out of your mind. You don’t know what you’re talking about. The country is a different country, and we’re better people.” 

Lewis was 23 when he spoke at the March in 1963. A year-and-a-half later, he was beaten by police in Alabama as he led civil rights demonstrators across the bridge in Selma.

Lewis is scheduled to participate in events over the next week to commemorate the event marked by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech.