President Barack Obama has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bayard Rustin, posthumously, for his leadership in the civil rights movement and as the architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin was an aide to A. Philip Randolph, the leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters -- the only national black union.
Many of the leaders and planners of the march opposed Rustin at first because he was gay, but they soon realized that he was the one person with the vision, the skill and the energy to make the march successful. With the help of civil rights organizations, including the National Urban League, which, at the time, was the only nationwide civil rights organization with paid staff, he made the dream of the march a reality.
As history notes, the March on Washington was an astounding success. Without Bayard Rustin, however, there would have been no "I Have a Dream" speech before 250,000 people.
It is fitting and proper that President Obama gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to Rustin now, as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic march.
WENDELL G. FREELAND