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PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think you’re exactly right. And this part of our history just has to be preserved.  nd that’s why, you know, we had a screening here [at The White House] of Selma and we had Oprah and the whole cast and the director and producers.

SYBIL: Was Congressman Lewis there?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And John was here. And I tell you guys, you know, one of the most moving things was after the screening I brought them all over the Oval Office.  And John was standing next to the young man who had played him in the movie.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: And I’ve got a framed program of the original March on Washington. And John Lewis is the only person on that speaking program who’s still alive.

TOM: When you and the First Lady explain Selma to your daughters, what was their reaction?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, I think Malia and Sasha, what they understand is that people made great sacrifices so that life’s a lot easier for them. And I think they appreciate that partly because, you know, Michelle and I have emphasized that since they were young and partly because, you know, they got a grandma who’s still living in the house and remembers what it was like living on the South Side of Chicago in a segregated setting in a basically segregated school. And so they’ve heard the stories. But I think that part of what, and this goes back to something I said earlier, part of what I want Malia and Sasha to understand is that this is an unfinished project. You know, we saw the Ferguson report this week. I had my task force come in that I had assigned to provide us recommendations for action in the wake of Ferguson and New York.  And there is, you know, work to be done right now. And I say to my daughters the same thing I say to the young people who work for me, and that is it is a glorious task that we are given to continually try to improve this great country of ours. And we shouldn’t shy away from that work and we shouldn’t be complacent about it. And everybody’s got to find their own way to do it.

SYBIL: How would you like to see your girls you passing that charge to them? How would you like to see them complete that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that, look, everybody’s got a way to give back.  You know, I am very doubtful that they will want to run for public office, you know, partly because they’ve been listening to their mother.

SYBIL: (Laughs)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: But I want them to be engaged and involved, right? And so if they want to do it through business, then I want them to have a business that is providing employment and opportunity for people who might not otherwise get it. If they want to do it through the arts, then I want their art to be informed by the great social issues of the day so that they’re illuminating that for other people and telling stories that need to be told.

TOM: I understand.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, it’s, I want them to raise kids who are responsible and conscious because that’s part of the work that has to be done.

TOM: That’s how I raise my sons.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Yeah, and they take their work seriously and they take voting seriously.  And they take community involvement seriously.  You know, the great thing about Selma is it celebrates not just the famous people, but it celebrates all those folks who don’t have their name on a plaque or a statue.  But everybody understands that, you know what, it wasn’t just Dr. King making a great speech, although I think he is an icon for the ages.  It wasn’t just John Lewis, although I don’t know of a more courageous or a sweet man than him.

SYBIL: Isn’t that the truth?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: But it was also just people who went back to their lives after it was done.

SYBIL: That’s going to be a powerful moment to have you there and the former Presidents and your families and just to see that moment there on the bridge, that’s really powerful.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah. Well, we’re looking forward to it.

TOM: Well, Sybil and I, and my family will be there.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I look forward to seeing you guys down there, and I hope that everybody who’s listening not only has a chance to maybe see the coverage but make that visit yourself at some point.

SYBIL: Absolutely.

TOM: Yeah.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You know, it’s worth the trip.

TOM: And it is a trip.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s a sacred place.

SYBIL: Thank you so much for your time.

TOM: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  All right, appreciate you guys.

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President Obama Talks ‘Selma 50,’ Ferguson And The Legacy He Wants To Leave His Daughters  was originally published on

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