Holder: King's dream 'within our grasp'

Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday paid tribute to the civil rights leaders and activists who marched on Washington in 1963, saying that while the nation they envisioned has not yet been fully realized, “it is finally within our grasp.” 

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“Today, we look to the work that remains unfinished, and make note of our nation's shortcomings, not because we wish to dwell on imperfection – but because, as those who came before us, we love this great country,” Holder said before thousands standing on the Mall. “We want this nation to be all that it was designed to be – and all that it can become.”

Holder, the nation’s first African American attorney general, joined dozens of speakers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in one of several events marking the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Holder said that the civil rights movements, which in the middle of the 20th century was devoted to the advancement of African Americans, had broadened in the 21st century to include “the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment.”

In a speech lasting less than 10 minutes, the attorney general made oblique references to the issues of voting rights and criminal justice that many speakers before him had specifically championed.

“This morning, we affirm that this struggle must, and will, go on in the cause of our nation’s quest for justice – until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices,” Holder said.

 “It must go on until our criminal justice system can ensure that all are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision invalidating part of the Voting Rights Act, Holder’s Justice Department on Friday sued the state of Texas to block its new law requiring voters to provide photo identification. 

The Justice Department is also investigating the handling of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing.