Contact Us

Newsroom

Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Permit Signing for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, As Prepared

10/29/2009
As prepared for delivery.

I started elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana just a couple of years after segregation ended. I came of age in the Deep South in the late 60s and 70s – in the direct wake of the Civil Rights movement. To say that Dr. King’s work and example has changed my life would fail to do justice to what his work and his legacy have meant to me and so many others.

We still live with that legacy today. Any American who has engaged in public service or active citizenship has been in some way inspired by Dr. King.

For my own field, there is a corollary between the civil rights struggle and the environmental struggle.

The Civil Rights struggle began fighting against obvious injustice – “Whites Only” signs and racial violence.

Today, the struggle continues in the fight against things that are harder to see – disparities in economic opportunity, achievement gaps in our schools, deeply ingrained institutional prejudices.

Environmentalism began to take shape in the same model, with people organizing because their rivers were so polluted they were literally catching on fire.

Today we fight the fight against challenges that are harder to see – the long-term threats that climate change poses to our children and grandchildren, invisible toxins in our water and air, or disparities between rich and poor on the burden of environmental degradation.

I saw that connection made plain recently at a White House event on green jobs in the inner city. One of the participants was Doctor Dorothy Height, who stood with Dr. King on the stage at the March on Washington.

She has taken up the issue of environmentalism as the next step in the great march forward. Even after all these years, she is still working to ensure equality and opportunity for everyone.

That is the legacy of Dr. King. He bent the arc of history sharply towards justice. And he inspired millions.

This monument will inevitably honor not just Dr. King but the many millions who stood with him across the country. And most importantly, it will stand as an inspiration for millions more.

Every day, young people from every state in that nation come to visit the Lincoln Memorial. They hear the history. And they read the words engraved on the wall. They confront the question of whether a nation conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal can, in fact, endure.

When this project is complete, they will come here as well. They will see the monument to Dr. King and the movement he led 100 years after Lincoln – and they will know that that nation can endure.

We hope by that, they will be inspired to continue the unfinished work, and ensure that it will continue to endure for generations to come.

Thank you very much.