MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And we're going to hear now from some of the many young people who gathered on the Mall today. As NPR's Allison Keyes reports, they came with a deep sense of the day's importance.
ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx spoke directly to young people, telling them it's their turn to take up the fight begun by civil rights warriors like Martin Luther King Jr.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
JAMIE FOXX: What we need to do now is the young folks pick it up now so that when we're 87 years old, talking to the other young folks, we could say it was me.
NATASHA CAPERS: The work is being done. Whether it gets publicized all the time is another story, but the work is being done.
KEYES: Natasha Capers(ph) is a 34-year-old Brooklyn activist who says young people are taking on important issues. She asks that education is just one of the things young people across the nation should be worrying about.
CAPERS: Coming from New York and seeing the reform in stop and frisk, seeing the reforms in school discipline, everything around school closures and school reform and really being able to galvanize parents and community to fight against those things and really get their energy back onto the streets to be able to do the hard work that it takes to make sure that everyone has everything they need.
KEYES: The significance of the day - of an African-American president standing where King stood 50 years ago - is not lost on Capers.
CAPERS: It's mind-blowing. But what's even bigger to me is that I have two boys at home - they're 7 and 9 - but to know that one day they may also stand there, that they may stand in positions of power where they can really effect change.
EMILY GENTILE: I don't understand what it was like 50 years ago, but I just know that we've come so far, and it's so exciting.
KEYES: Emily Gentile(ph) is a 19-year-old sophomore at George Washington University. She's studying public health and has done some campaigning with the college Democrats on campus. Gentile doesn't believe those who think this nation is post-racial.
GENTILE: I think we still have a long way to go. You still hear stories all the time of racism, especially in the South, and even in the North too. So I think we still have a long way to go. And if people think we're done, then we're never going to keep moving forward.
DON ALLEY: Fifty years ago, this moment changed the face of the nation.
KEYES: Don Alley(ph) brought his 9-year-old daughter Trinity(ph) to the Let Freedom Ring celebration so that she could be part of history.
ALLEY: I would find myself to be remiss and be a bad parent if I did not bring her out here to at least see this.
KEYES: Alley says he explained to his daughter why it is phenomenal that President Obama leads the nation after King fought so hard for equality. To have a president of color, he says...
ALLEY: Is the culmination of the beauty of exactly what people were talking about. We all deserve the same equal rights. We all deserve that right to have that possibility to be someone.
KEYES: Nine-year-old Trinity says she understands.
TRINITY ALLEY: I think that it's really special for me to be down here because when - 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, he had the Dream speech, and some people believed in it, and some people didn't. And to be in the speech today makes me really happy.
KEYES: When she grows up, Trinity says she'd like to be president. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.