In an interview with National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi, Project 21's Jimmie Hollis has shared his memories of attending the original 1963 March on Washington, and hearing Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech firsthand.
The first thing that struck me… was the amount of people. It was extremely crowded. My friend and I managed to work our way up towards the middle of the crowd. It was just amazing; when [Dr. Martin Luther King] began to speak it was just electrifying. It gave you goose bumps, and it still does today when I hear his speech.Hollis credits, in part, the inspiration he received from King's speech to his ability to be successful and achieve a great deal during his career in the Air Force. He continued:
…What I took away from his speech was the intensity of his message, which, to me, was the 'can-do' attitude, the empowering, the uplifting… not the victimhood or the downer or 'you owe me,’ it was we can do… we can become anything you want to, and what he was asking the establishment to do was, simply, get rid of the barriers. You get rid of the barriers and we will get it for ourselves. It was a dire contrast to what it is today, where everyone seems to be wanting to be a victim and can't achieve anything because for some reason there's someone else pulling them down, and it seems to be so easy for someone to claim to be a victim rather than get out there and try hard and do hard.
It was just an amazing crowd. But the attitude was different. I saw a lot of people with hope in their eyes with being empowered and a lot of tears from people that were getting the message of hope, getting the message that 'we can do this.' And I'm not seeing that today.
Of the commemorative "Jobs, Justice & Freedom" rally held in Washington August 24 by Al Sharpton, the National Action Network and Martin Luther King III, Hollis said, "The majority of those people and groups that attended there would have been considered enemies of the black people by Dr. King, because these were the people that continued to try to hold us down by making us victims… The dream has been twisted… it's sad. It's really, really sad."