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Obama: Economic equality is the 'great unfinished business' of civil rights era

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He acknowledged the progress that had been made, citing his own election as president, but warned lingering inequality threatened the legacies of those who fought and died in the civil rights battles half a century ago.

“As we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires,” Obama told a massive crowd gathered on a rainy Mall. “It was whether this country would admit all people willing to work hard regardless of race into the ranks of a middle-class life.”

The president's remarks were sweeping, but rarely personal, instead focusing broadly on familiar themes: economic opportunity, the power of community and the promise of the American Dream.

His decision to frame his discussion in terms of economic equality for all stood in contrast with some of the afternoon’s speakers, who cited a recent Supreme Court decision gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial as evidence that the struggle to progress beyond the nation’s history of racial discrimination persisted.

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