AP Photo:Butch Dill

50 years after Bloody Sunday: 2015. AP Photo/Butch Dill

Last night I read from John Garner’s The Art of Fiction about the theory of the “fictional dream”—a notion that the writer makes us “see” the story by giving us images that appeal to all our senses, eliciting emotion. I thought of this as I watched President Obama’s electrifying speech delivered this past Saturday in Selma Alabama on the banks of the Alabama River to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

On March 7, 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with now Congressman John Lewis, lead 600 blacks in a march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Slema. This march was sparked by the police killing of unarmed, 27-year old civil rights activist, Jimmy Lee Jackson and to protested the tenacious, inhumane obstacles sanctioned by our US government to keep blacks from voting 100 years after the Civil War. The protest ended with mounted police brutally attacking the peaceful marchers with bullwhips, billy clubs and tear gas.

President Obama’s speech at the site of this bloodshed was like a masterfully crafted sentence; the kind we writers aim for, structured so that readers go back and read it again and again just to savor and learn from it. As I listened I wanted to rewind his words; they appealed to all my senses and pulled me—as always—into his dream for America. He does this so well, this thing that a good sentence does: evokes the past, holds the present and propels us into the future—where there is still much work to be done. Much work indeed: