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In his much-anticipated speech marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama largely avoided the subject of race, instead arguing the civil rights issues of today unite Americans of all colors and are almost entirely about making sure the economy creates more middle-class jobs.

“What is largely unmet in achieving Martin Luther King’s dream, according to Obama, is the struggle of many Americans to find decent-paying work and the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor. He called that lack of economic progress “our great unfinished business”, which renders the “dream Dr. King described even more elusive.” Obama dismissed the growing number of black millionaires as irrelevant compared to “whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker.”

“In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination — the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the march, for the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract idea. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice, not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity,” he said.

He added, “For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?”

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