Speaking to thousands in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where thousands marched for voting rights in 1965, President Obama called on a younger generation of voters to take to the polls to exercise their rights.
The President spoke to the ongoing civil injustices in America, but noted that the situation in Ferguson is far different than the sanctioned discrimination of the past.
Discussing the continuous struggle for human rights, Obama noted:
Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice's Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report's narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing's changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it's no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.
"What could be more American than what happened in this place?" asked Obama, honoring the violent events of "Bloody Sunday."
Obama called Americans to action, and encouraged the public to continue to embrace the message of the civil rights movement.
"Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer," he said.
"The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word 'We.' We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone."
Following his speech, Obama joined the first family, the Bush family, and thousands of others to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
A White House pool report estimated that 40,000 people attended.
Amelia Boynton Robinson, a civil rights activist who was beaten unconscious during the Bloody Sunday march in 1965, traveled across the bridge again on Saturday in her wheelchair.
The family of Martin Luther King Jr, who led the Selma march in 1965, was among those who made the trip for the anniversary, as was the widow of Eric Garner.
About 100 members of Congress also traveled to Alabama on Saturday, although the Obama family was delayed after security threats put the White House on lockdown.
A small fire at a vending stand near the South Lawn put the White House on lockdown, with reporters temporarily locked into the press briefing room.
The Washington D.C. fire department confirmed to BuzzFeed News that they had sent a bomb squad team to investigate per the Secret Service's request.
After no threat was found, the president was able to leave with his family.
Traveling on Selma on Air Force One, Obama signed a resolution to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to those who participated in the 1965 Bloody Sunday voting rights march.
"Not just the legends and the giants of the Civil Rights Movement like Dr. King and John Lewis, but the countless American heroes whose names aren't in the history books, that aren't etched on marble somewhere — ordinary men and women from all corners of this nation."
Prior to Obama's speech, buses full of people from across the country arrived in the Alabama town.
Members of the NAACP traveled from cities across the country to commemorate the anniversary.
Seventy-two year old Madeline McCloud of Gainesville, Florida, came from an NAACP group and told the Associated Press that she's was in Selma to both pay tribute to past events and tp help teach young people about the importance of fighting for civil rights.
"I marched with Dr. King in Albany, Georgia," she said. "For me this could be the end of the journey since I'm 72. I'm stepping back into the history we made."
Among the members of Congress paying tribute to Bloody Sunday is Representative John Lewis of Georgia, who marched in 1965. He Tweeted memories and photos of the day 50 years ago:
This story will be developing as events in Selma continue on Saturday and Sunday. Check back for more information.