Meet the Press   |  August 25, 2013

John Lewis looks back to original March on Washington

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the only living speaker from the original March on Washington, reflects on his experience at the momentous event 50 years ago.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> people gathered here in washington saturday to re-create the march on washington where dr. king gave his famous i have a dream speech. and it was exactly 50 years ago today, august 25th , 1963 , that dr. king and the executive secretary of the naacp, roy wilkins , appeared right here on "meet the press." many of you either already had the chance or will have the opportunity to see that special program as we have made it the original broadcast available to our nbc stations across the country. our roundtable joins us in just a moment. but first joining me now, the only living speaker from the march on washington , congressman john lewis . he spoke yesterday in front of the lincoln memorial .

>> you cannot stand by. you cannot sit down. you've got to stand up, speak up, speak out, and get in the way, make some noise!

>> congressman lewis, welcome back to "meet the press."

>> thank you very much, david, for having me.

>> what a moment. we actually have the two images. there you were 50 years ago as a 23-year-old speaking so powerfully and 50 years later an elder statesman, sir, if you don't mind ne saying.

>> i don't mind.

>> a pioneer of the civil rights struggle. that had to be quite a moment.

>> it was a moving moment to stand there in the same spot 50 years later where dr. king and others stood. i think in the past 50 years we have witnessed what i'd like to call the nonviolent revolution in america, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas, and our country is a better country.

>> you know, the president will speak on wednesday in the same spot. he'll mark 50 years since the i have a dream speech. we've talked over the years, and you told me about a year and a half ago in your view a lot of people can't get comfortable with the idea of an african- american president even though what a testament to the progress and the dream that dr. king had. and you even said during your speech yesterday there are forces, there are people who want to take us back. what specifically are you talking about?

>> well, i hear people over and over again saying we want to take our country back. take it back where? where are we going? we need to go forward. we've made so much progress. i often think -- when i was growing up, i thought it was science that said white men, colored men, white women , colored women, colored waiting, those signs are gone. when i first came to washington in 1961 , the same year that president barack obama was born, to go on the freedom ride , black people and white people couldn't be seated on a bus or a train together to travel through the south. so can our children grow up and their children grow up, they will not see those signs. the only place that they would see those signs would be in a book, in a museum, or on a video.