Thank you Bahrain! Thank you for inviting me and for making me feel so welcome here. I love that we’re here tonight to celebrate the Spring of Culture- to celebrate art and its power to bring us together and see each other’s humanity.
When I spoke at the Oscars last week, I quoted one of my favorite artists, American musician Nina Simone. She said that, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.” So I feel that it’s part of my job to express myself freely and passionately about issues I care about. I walk in the footsteps of so many great artists who came before me who did just that.
When you look at me, you may see the international superstar John Legend, but I am also the descendant of slaves. My grandparents and even my parents were born in a country where many of our schools were legally segregated, where many people who looked like me couldn’t vote and couldn’t expect to have the opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were supposed to be the promise of America.
But we fought for change. I wrote this song “Glory” for a film called Selma. That film depicts the epic struggle for civil rights, justice and equality led by Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago. We haven’t achieved all of the goals that Dr. King fought for. We still have a long way to go. But we continue to have hope and we continue to march forward. We believe that change is possible because we have seen it happen before. Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
A just society is one built not on fear or repression or vengeance or exclusion, but one built on love. Love for our families. Love for our neighbors. Love for the least among us. Love for those who look different or worship differently. Love for those we don’t even know.
We continue to fight in America to move toward this just society and we pray the same for the people of Bahrain. And for those who stand for justice, accountability, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom to organize without fear of retribution, please know that I stand with you.
The struggle may not be easy. Some have already paid the ultimate sacrifice to make this vision a reality. But I believe there is a brighter future ahead. And, one day when the glory comes, it will be ours…
Photo Credit: AP Photo / Hasan Jamali