The march, or what The Washington Post dubbed a "Washington Entertainment-Political-Celebrity event" was organized by a coalition of mostly leftist groups -- Al Sharpton's National Action Center, the Urban League, the Rainbow Push Coalition, the NAACP and the Children's Defense Fund, among others. The speakers roster featured the usual suspects: Benjamin Jealous, Sidney Poitier, Julian Bond, Randi Weingarten, Caroline Kennedy, Al Sharpton, Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and President Obama.
The organizers didn't see fit to invite Justice Clarence Thomas or Sen. Tim Scott (a Republican). They did invite former presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, but both declined because of ill health. George W. Bush sent an appropriately appreciative note praising King, but it wasn't read from the podium or included in news coverage of the event (except in Texas newspapers).
Speaker of the House John Boehner chose to commemorate the anniversary of King's address at a ceremony in the Capitol. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who received his invitation just 12 days before the event, had a previously planned event in North Dakota (though he had recently been to Selma and other landmarks with Rep. John L. Lewis to commemorate civil rights anniversaries).
Boehner should have attended, if only because no opportunity should ever be lost to counter the Democratic slander that Republicans and conservatives are hostile to black people. And that was the takeaway from the day.
Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, noted that Klansmen in white sheets are no longer a menace, but there are "judges in black robes in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates in many states to pass more voter ID laws ... with the goal of ensuring we never see a black man elected to the president, or woman, of the United States of America."
Julian Bond said the Court had "eviscerated" the Voting Rights Act. Martin Luther King III claimed that some use race as a "license to profile, to arrest and even to murder."
President Obama invited his listeners to conclude that today's moral equivalents of the white supremacists of old are those who oppose raising the minimum wage and redistributing wealth. Aiming at his favorite (if thoroughly shopworn) straw man, he inveighed against those who "believe that greed is good and compassion ineffective."