Just days before the end of Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s term, she stood at the pulpit of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in the shadow of one our greatest leaders, Martin Luther King Jr., and addressed the citizens of Alabama. Lynch told the congregation:
“We can’t take progress for granted. We have to work. There’s no doubt that we still have a way to go — a long way to go.”
In 1963 Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church was the setting for an attack by the Ku Klux Klan leaving four Black girls dead and 22 others injured. Last week, President Obama designated the church as a national monument commemorating the Civil Rights Movement. During Lynch’s speech, she focused on commemorating the movement as well as pushing us to stay vigilant in the cause. Lynch stated:
“It reminds us, as few places can, that freedom is not free. And the price of freedom is constant vigilance.”
Lynch discussed her fears that everything MLK has done will be undone in the blink of an eye. But with fear comes hope and Lynch moved to drive hope into the people of Birmingham and others all over the country. Lynch said:
“We are Americans, and we have always pushed forward. Every generation has to work.”
After a report was published showing how the legal system in Birmingham is flawed and hat excessive force and racism are an escalating problem, it was only fitting that this speech is made on the doorstep of the Civil Rights Movement. Speaking with NPR before her speech, Lynch talked about the legal system, about her regrets as she leaves office, and how the Attorney General’s office is a constant stepping stone towards the freedoms and rights our country has built over decades. Lynch stated:
“The work that we do spans time, it spans generations, and we build on it. We have to admit that change is hard and policing is changing a lot in this country. That being said, I still believe that the work that we have done has been positive.”
We can only hope as we move into the next four years that the work that people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Loretta Lynch will not be forgotten and shoved to the back of the bus.
Featued image via Michael Kline Photography.