Fifty Years Ago Today


Fifty years ago today, our country witnessed the remarkable March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We celebrate that today. In the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, we especially celebrate that in two ways. One is the reminder that the march centered on jobs and on freedom. While it is generally recognized as a civil rights march, it was also very much focused on economic freedom and on jobs.

In the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, we remain committed to freedom and to jobs. Our work representing low income clients with their civil legal problems is often centered on jobs and on economic independence. Whether the effort is to help a person access public benefits that will help equip her to transition from welfare to work, whether the representation is for a client seeking employment, but who needs some help to render him more employable by cleaning up antiquated or even inaccurate records, or whether there is a need for the client to stabilize her family and herself, so she can focus her efforts on work, we are there to help.

But we also celebrate the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed on that day. Introduced as the “moral leader of our nation,” Dr. King made an incredibly moving and articulate speech. There are lots of places to find and view it, but here is one:

Another way in which we live out the dream of Dr. King is through our Martin Luther King, Jr. Internship and Fellowship Programs, aimed at promoting diversity in the ranks of attorneys working for legal aid programs. Through these programs, every summer the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network places interns in legal aid programs across the state and it also places fellows (law school graduates) in these programs. The project is funded partly by our state and IOLTA funding sources and it is funded by the generous contributions of attorneys, businesses, and individuals across the state, allowing us to hire more fellows than we otherwise could.

As we reflect on this important day, I encourage readers to view a video PLAN, Inc. produced several years ago about the Fellowship program. The video also contains parts of Dr. King’s speech and comments from supporters and participants in the program. 

Please set aside the time today to consider the great work, and the great words of a moral leader we lost many years ago, but also to consider how we can continue to live out his dream and the dreams of all who were a part of that march.