presidents and giants of the Civil Rights movement as part of the national
commemoration of the March on Washington, Alan van Capelle, CEO of Bend
the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, spoke today from the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial, urging his fellow American Jews and all
Americans to continue the struggle for civil rights.
Capelle’s brief speech was part of the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call
to Action event at the Lincoln Memorial, which celebrated the 50th Anniversary
of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.’s incomparable “I Have A Dream” speech.
the Arc is a national organization inspired by Jewish values and
the steadfast belief that Jewish Americans, regardless of religious or
institutional affiliations, are compelled to create justice and opportunity for
Americans. It serves as a leader and partner in ongoing national and
state-level work to protect civil rights, expand rights to LGBT individuals,
advance comprehensive immigration reform, ensure that domestic and home care
workers are protected by basic labor standards, and other causes of social
to joining Bend the Arc, van Capelle won major victories for LGBT rights as
Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda; ran the day to day
political operations of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local
32BJ, the largest and most powerful building service union in the country; and
served as Deputy Comptroller for the City of New York, where he advised the
agency on all matters involving public policy, media, and community relations.
full speech is below, and you can also watch it here.
ago a Rabbi shared these steps with Dr. King and began his remarks by saying,
“I speak to you as an American Jew.”
My name is
Alan van Capelle, and today I speak to you as an American Jew. I represent the
Jewish Civil Rights Group Bend the Arc, and the more than thirty organizations
collectively called the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable.
Dr. King offered us fifty years ago wasn’t only a dream. It was a call for
equality but it was also a demand for justice.
We may be
closer to legal equality but we are far, far, far from justice. We are far from
justice when young black men are stopped and frisked and disrespected on the
streets of New York City.
We are far
from justice when students carry the burden of loans.
We are far
from justice when 11 million immigrants work every single day without
protections or a pathway to citizenship.
We are far
from justice when a gay, lesbian, or transgender person can be fired from their
job simply for being who they are.
We are far
from justice when we accept the fact that the rich are getting richer and the
poor are getting poorer, and we allow American children to go to bed hungry.
moral arc of the universe is long and it does in fact bend towards justice, but
it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because of people like Bayard Rustin,
Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner. It bends because of you and
me. We make the arc bend. And for many of us, it’s not bending fast
Jews around the world recall how Moses led his people out of slavery and
towards the Promised Land. But the desert came first.
that the only way to the Promised Land is through the desert. We are taught
that “there is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and
after Dr. King delivered his speech from these very steps we are still a people
wandering through the desert. But don’t be discouraged. Because I’m not.
When I look
around this Mall, at all of you – so diverse, so impassioned, so bonded
together by shared values, hopes, and dreams – then I can hear in your voices
the echo of Dr. King, and I know that the edge of the desert is near, and the
promised land within sight.