Poor People's Campaign

Contact: Martha Waggoner, [email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival spoke Saturday at the Make Good Trouble rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theohairis spoke at the rally held on the 58th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The rally title, “Make Good Trouble” was taken from the words of Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who said: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” 

The co-chairs laid out the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival for Congress to: 

  • End the filibuster
  • Fully restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act 
  • Pass all provisions of the For the People Act
  • Increase the federal minimum wage to $15/an hour 

Below are some quotes from the speeches of Revs. Barber and Theoharis: 

Rev. Barber: 

“The moral and constitutional crisis we face today is the direct result of forces in state legislatures that organized to push back against the political power that mobilized here 58 years ago today.

“Because we don’t have sufficient federal protections, we still have actors in state legislatures in 49 states trying to, and in many ways succeeding in, suppressing the vote, blocking living wages, police reform, health care, education funding and many more. So we are not gathered here to commemorate something that happened once upon a time. We are here today to continue the work of our foreparents who fought to expand democracy and make ‘liberty and justice for all’ a reality.”


“The worst mistake we could make now would be to demand too little. We have the capacity to change the political conversation in this country. It’s time.” 


“And if I could borrow from MLK: Anybody who tries to criticize these demands and say they’re somehow un-American: 

“If our demands for full justice are wrong, then the Constitution is wrong. If our demands are wrong then the promise of equal protection under the law is wrong. If our demands are wrong, then we might as well tear up the Declaration of Independence and its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all people. If our demands are wrong, then the Bible is wrong in Isaiah 10 when it declares, ‘Woe unto you who legislate evil and rob the poor of their rights.’

“If our demands are wrong, then someone ought to have the courage to say Jesus was wrong when he said the nations will be judged by the question: ‘When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was thirsty, did you give me something to drink? When I was naked, did you clothe me? When I was a stranger, did you welcome me?’”


“You can’t have the levels of injustice that exist now and think the nation is built on a solid foundation. The issue is not a scarcity of money. It’s not a scarcity of ideas. The only issue is a scarcity of moral consciousness. And the only way that changes is for us to realize we have work to do. We will do it. We have to do it. Because we refuse to give up on the possibility of America.” 


“They told me I might never walk again, but when the prayer warriors got together, and the doctors got together, and my family got together, and my faith got together, and my swim coach got together:  I can jump now. I walk now. There’s power when we come together. 

“And if we come together, God will help us. The spirit will help us. The ancestors will help us. And  the whole nation will thank us. And generations yet born will call our name.” 


“It’s time to believe again. It’s time to believe the heart and soul of this democracy can live. With every breath we have, while we still have time, together let’s rise up and do more to build a true one America that works for all of us.” 


Rev. Liz Theoharis: 

“We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. There is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

“And in the richest nation in human history that has 140 million people who are poor or one health care crisis, one job loss, one storm away from economic ruin, we indeed must sound the alarm. 

When because of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, we have fewer voting rights today than 56 years ago, we must not cool off. When a climate crisis is wreaking havoc on the lives and livelihoods of people all over this world, when there’s an unconstitutionally constituted Supreme Court that can overturn a moratorium on evictions, we must protest. 

“We must rally. We must organize. And mobilize. And sit in and stand up. Not just for a day. Not just for a summer. But until all people are housed. Until all people are fed. Until all people earn a living wage. When our voting rights are protected and expanded. All debt is canceled. All air and water is clean. All people are free to thrive, not just barely survive. 

“We’re living in a time of crisis. When the foundations of injustice and racism and poverty are crumbling and a fusion movement  of people coming together across all the lines that divide us is breaking through and building power. 

“It’s times like these when prophets have to arise to sound the alarm, to cry out, somebody is hurting our people. Somebody is evicting our families. Somebody is suppressing our votes. But we won’t be silent anymore.”