By Anugrah Kumar , Christian Post Contributor
(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)Standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the city of Selma in Alabama, where voting rights demonstrators braved police assault, galvanizing the civil rights movement 50 years ago, President Obama spoke to a crowd of thousands Saturday, praising their faith in God and America.
"The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung: No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you," Obama said, describing the event 50 years ago, according to the transcript of his speech published by The Washington Post.
The president, who was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, called it "a contest to determine the meaning of America."
Talking about civil rights leader John Lewis, Obama said, "His knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government — all you need for a night behind bars — John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America."
Obama said the anniversary was a time to honor the courage of ordinary Americans "willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice."
The president said the marchers did as Scripture instructed: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."
"And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came — black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope," he said. "A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet… What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God — but also faith in America."
Obama also said he was asked during the week whether he thought the Department of Justice's Ferguson report shows that little has changed. "I understand the question, for the report's narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the civil rights movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing's changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it's no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the civil rights movement, it most surely was," he said, referring to the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white policeman in Missouri a few months ago.
He concluded by saying, "We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country's sacred promise."
(Photo: Reuters/onathan Ernst)Selma, which had an equal number of whites and blacks in 1965, is now 80 percent black.
Los Angeles Times says Selma's white residents today live in an ever-shrinking quarter where antique churches are immaculately preserved.
Jamie Wallace, who was an editor at the Selma Times-Journal at the time, was presented a Living Legend Award by Selma's mayor.
Wallace was with civil right marchers when they were attacked on Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He and many other journalists at the time chose not to give in to pressure from advertisers, subscribers and the Selma elite to ignore the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the marchers