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War vet remembers King's speech, continued struggle

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Updated: 8/23/2013 6:12 pm
LAS VEGAS (Venise Toussaint, KSNV -- Fifty years ago Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of people marched on Washington, calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans.

On Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Las Vegan Roosevelt Thompson, 79, was in the crowd that day.

Thompson said he was filled with emotion as he stood just 15 feet away from Dr. King when he gave his iconic speech.

The speech was a turning point for African-Americans, shedding the national spotlight on some of the political and social injustices they faced.

Nearly 50 years later, Thompson relives that moment

“When you are a part of … 300,000 people all marching for the same thing, on the same page, feeling the same pain and went through the same humiliation’s, this is a monumental time in your life,” he said.

For most of his life, Thompson has been on the front lines of the fight for justice and basic human rights, yearning for the transformation Dr. King only dreamed about

“He put a face on the downtrodden, he put a face on the poor, he put a face on those that were cut out,” he said. “This is why I say Dr. King was a God-sent man.”

Upon his return from the Korean War, Thompson quickly realized that his battle was not over, feeling the sting of racism, police brutality and poverty.

“It’s not a good feeling to be a third-class citizen in a country you put your life on the line for,” Thompson said.

Today, Thompson says the issues he and many others put their lives on the line for still prevalent, but he says he's hopeful that one day King’s words won't just be a memory etched in American history but a way of life.

“I’m just hoping that the good-minded people of America come forward,” Thompson said. “Don’t be silent. Don’t be afraid. Say what’s on your mind and act.”


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