When President Obama spoke on Monday of our nation’s founding creed, that all are created equal, his words resonated deeply with us.

  • He spoke of our resolve “that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”
  • He described our understanding “that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
  • He reminded us that we will have been “true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”
  • And perhaps most importantly, he called on each of us to “be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.”

His words resonated not only because we too believe that these are core principles of our country, but also because he described the sort of just and inclusive community that we at the Legal Clinic and our partners in the Fair Budget Coalition have been striving to build in the District of Columbia since our inception.  His words were a fitting tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest champions of justice, on the day that we celebrate his birth.

President Obama reminded us that the truths of our great democracy “may be self-evident, but they’ve never been self-executing.” If we embrace these truths, as we do, it is our obligation to work for their realization. We cannot, and we do not, stand by as our friends and neighbors choose between rent and food for their children, between living on the street and fleeing an abuser. And we cannot, and we will not, stand by as the District of Columbia fills its coffers with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as our friends and neighbors suffer with ills that could be assuaged by investments in basic services today. That would not be justice.

We urge you to join us in pressing our elected leaders to seek and act for justice in DC by devoting some of the District’s surplus resources to urgent human needs, by taking action here. We also urge you to become a member of the Fair Budget Coalition to continue to help us build a more just and inclusive community.

As Dr. King once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Acting together, we shall bend it further in that direction.