King Memorial Dedication: Focus on 'Oughtness of Tomorrow'

The president gave that charge at today's ceremony, and the NAACP's chief echoed his words.

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Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Jill Biden (Getty)

Today was a day of great pride that reminds us how far we've come and forces us to remember how far we have yet to go, NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous told The Root on Sunday after the dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"President Obama was right to lift up Dr. King's message of not focusing on the 'is-ness' of today, but to keep our eyes focused on the 'oughtness' of tomorrow," he said in a brief telephone interview en route to a White House reception following the dedication. "It's important to continue Dr. King's work to make sure that everybody who is willing to work can find a job and that all of those who are qualified are fairly considered. Overall, it was a beautiful day that reminded us that we have to work harder to make an even more beautiful tomorrow."

Jealous was one of thousands who attended the official dedication, where President Barack Obama, the King family, leaders from the civil rights movement and other luminaries called on the world to continue King's fight to achieve racial equality and economic justice for all.

The dedication ceremony was originally scheduled to occur on Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, when King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, but it was postponed because of Hurricane Irene.

Here's the quote from President Obama's speech to which Jealous was referring:

Even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn't say those laws were a failure; he didn't say this is too hard; he didn't say, let's settle for what we got and go home. Instead he said, let's take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let's fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work. 

In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the "isness" of today. He kept pushing towards the "oughtness" of tomorrow.

Read more coverage from the dedication ceremony later today, and tomorrow, at The Root.

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