Within two years, landmark civil rights and voting rights measures had become law, ending legal segregation and obliterating legal obstacles to voter intimidation.
Wednesdays event is unlikely to spur that kind of change, despite the hopes and pleas at the rally. People who gathered on the Mall 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract ideal, Obama said. They were seeking jobs as well as justice.
Little by little, said veteran organizer Lisa Fithian, different movements across the nation are gaining momentum immigration, gay rights, gun control, affordable health care and uniting in a common purpose.
Look at the last 10 years, she said. Were seeing significant convergence.
But that convergence has yet to ignite the kind of political momentum that prods Washington to resolve seemingly intractable problems.
Congress was gone Wednesday, its fourth week of a recess that is scheduled to last another 10 days. When it returns, Topics A and B are likely to be Americas role in Syria and how to keep the government running past the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
The marchs causes will be heard and remembered, but in scattershot ways. Lawmakers will fight over the future of food stamps and efforts to rewrite the suddenly weakened Voting Rights Act. Theyll give serious attention to overhauling the immigration system, and conservatives will make a strong push to defund and dilute the 2010 health care law that the Wednesday crowd considers a major achievement.
Wednesday made it clear: Aug. 28, 1963 had the feel of a crusade. Aug. 28, 2013 had the feel of a moment to take stock.
America, Clinton said, is always becoming, always on a journey.
Wednesday is more likely to be viewed as the upbeat end of a chapter in that saga, not the beginning of a new one.