A Labor Day Message from the Desk of NFFE National President William R. Dougan
On August 24th my wife and I attended the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. We stood with tens of thousands of our sisters and brothers from the labor movement, the civil rights movement, churches, student groups, and thousands of others who were not affiliated with a particular group or cause.
We were all drawn to the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool on that beautiful summer day by something beyond the slate of speakers who spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King’s unfulfilled dream, a dream so brilliantly articulated in his speech on those very steps 50 years earlier. We were drawn by a sense of duty; duty not just to fulfill the dream, but to renew the urgency of our cause.
Somewhere over the last 50 years this movement – our movement – has lost its way. We have strayed from the virtuous path of collective action. Many have forgotten how to work together for the common good and have failed to build upon the legacy left by those who came before us. Solidarity has been replaced with divisiveness, optimism with cynicism, and respect with contempt. In many ways, we do not know who we are anymore.
I showed up on the 24th not because I believe that the change we have been waiting for will be found in the words of speeches, no matter how eloquently written. Rather, the change we so desperately seek can be found in the faces and spirit of the thousands of young and old, gay and straight people of all colors, ethnicities, and religions that we stood with that day.
We share a common recognition that we are all members of one race – the human race. We share the unwavering belief that every working man and woman deserves respect. We share the principle that all workers and their contributions to society are valued and deserving of a living wage.
I believe in the words of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats: “In dreams lie responsibility.” It is not enough to have strong convictions if we fail to act on those convictions. We have an obligation to commit to action if our dreams are to become reality.
This Labor Day, let us honor the memory and sacrifice of those who came before us and dedicate ourselves to work together to realize the dream of which Dr. King so courageously spoke. We know the work will not be easy, nor the results immediate. But let us not be distracted by those who would stand in our way. We must continue the long march forward, one step at a time.
William R. Dougan