President Obama will mark the anniversary of the March on Washington today at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech 50 years ago. As we all reflect on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his influence on American society, let’s also celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of social and environmental justice.
Dr. King was a pioneer on many fronts. He fought to raise awareness about urban environmental issues and public health concerns that disproportionately affect communities of color – issues that are still relevant today. We have made tremendous progress in the past 50 years, but our work is not done.
As I reflect on this anniversary, my thoughts go to scripture. I am reminded of the passage from Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
This sentiment of stewardship is what led me to join the Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, we work every day to safeguard our environment – the environment with which we have been entrusted – for future generations.
Something we don’t think about often enough is that ensuring basic environmental protections for all is a civil rights issue – one that we have yet to resolve. Our low income and minority neighborhoods suffer disproportionate health impacts, like asthma and heart disease, due to harmful pollution in the air, land and water.