On this day – October 2, 1967 Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States. He was more than just the first African American elevated to the highest court in the country: he was the grandson of slaves, the standard bearer in the fight against injustice and a voice for voiceless Americans.
My favorite photo of him was taken in 1958 — he is sitting on the steps of the Supreme Court surrounded by the Little Rock students. As counsel for the NAACP, that photo captured just one moment of many battles. A few years later, he would be photographed again — but as Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States.
On this anniversary of the swearing in I am including an excerpt of a speech he gave before his death entitled “We Must Dissent.” It is a timeless and prophetic word for all of us. For all of the reasons he talks about here, we who care must still be in the business of dissenting.
“American must get to work. In the chilled climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing winds. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand, waiting for the needs of the poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and timeless absence of moral leadership. We must dissent, because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”Thurgood Marshall, 1992