[Editor’s note: The following text is from a statement delivered by Minister Louis Farrakhan at the Salaam restaurant in Chicago during a September 11 press conference to address plans and goals for the Oct. 16 Million Family March.]In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.

Five years ago, on the Mall in front of the Capitol Building of the United States, 1.6 million Black men gathered on a Day of Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility. Religious leaders from every denomination of Christianity, members of the Hebrew Israelite community and members of the Muslim community met at Rankin Chapel at Howard University declaring October 16th a Holy Day where Black people throughout America would not work, would not go to school, would not participate in any behavior that would not be pleasant in the Eyes of Allah (God). That day created something good among our people, the results of which are still being manifested.

Five years later, three weeks before the first presidential election of the new century and millennium, we are calling these nearly two million men to return to Washington, to bring their wives, children, their girlfriends, that we may reconstruct family life, not only among our people, but there is a disintegration of the American family as well. We are taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that the family is the basic unit of civilization. A strong family makes a strong nation. A weak family weakens the nation.

One of the signs of the decline of a civilization is its divorce rate. When you find that 50 percent of those who marry get divorced, oftimes within the first three years of their marriage, this is not a healthy sign for the American family. The disrespect of marriage as a basic institution instituted by Allah (God), Himself, cannot lead to the respect of women, the respect of children, and the respect of family life.

Juxtaposed to the disintegration of the family is a serious political phenomenon that should be studied by the wise. For the last two or three presidential elections, less than 50 percent of those eligible to vote actually took part in the most important exercise of a democratic society, and that is to elect the President of the United States of America. Forty nine percent of those qualified to vote actually voted in the last election. This time around, while there is so much hoopla over the recent Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention, when you look at the Neilson Ratings (which are used to determine television viewership) you will find that there is a disinterest in the American people about such an important event as the election of the next President of the United States. Should the polls say three weeks from now that it is a virtual dead heat; then the Million Family March could be instrumental in choosing who the next President of the United States will be.

We have gathered scholars, scientists of religion, social science, psychology, and penology together to craft what we believe is an agenda that is in the best interest, not only of Black, Hispanic and Native American people, but in the interest of the American people as well. We feel that, no matter how good a presidential hopeful may speak, there is, in our judgment, a responsibility that we have to make any presidential hopeful accountable for the promises that they make to us. Therefore, this Million Family March will not necessarily be a march as such, it will be a celebration of family, but, it will be the mobilization of, hopefully, several millions of people that we may leverage our unity toward government and its responsibility to us and the poor of this nation. We do not believe that any well meaning presidential hopeful can deliver what we need to improve the quality of our lives without a force that comes up from the people that can be leveraged against those forces that make presidential hopefuls promise what they know they will not be able to deliver for the good of the masses of the people.

Lastly, there is no enemy on the outside of this nation that can pose a military threat to the awesome power of this, the greatest nation on the earth and the only remaining superpower. America’s downfall cannot come from without, but unfortunately, unless change takes place, America’s fall can come from within. The Great Roman Empire did not collapse from without, it collapsed from within. What we see inside America is a moral degeneracy, a fall into a license to do whatever one wills to do in disrespect of self and others, in the name of freedom of speech and the freedom to be and do as we please. This is causing the fall of the nation from within.

Therefore, this Million Family March is not just for the Black family, though the Black family will be the cornerstone of this march\mobilization. We are appealing to the Latino family, to the Native American family, to the Arab, Asian, and White family, because each member of the American family is feeling the effect of family unfriendly public policy and family unfriendly foreign policy. We intend, by the Grace of Allah (God), to make a difference. We have not entered the politics of this world so that business can be done as usual. We have entered the politics of this world to really and truly make a difference. We find that in the campaign finance reform that has been put forth by the candidates, it is a sign that the American people are being robbed of the value of electoral politics because corporate giants are spending nearly a billion dollars a year to get legislation in favor of corporate America while not necessarily legislation in the favor of the American people. Corporate America is not necessarily bad, but corporate America unchecked can take its natural lust for the bottom line (profits) to drive America’s public policy and drive America’s foreign policy and make what could be good evil unless there is a force rising from the midst of the people that can be leveraged not only toward government, but toward corporate America to make corporate America and the government of the United States respond to the pressing and urgent needs of the American people.

None of this should make us to think that the basic responsibility for change does not rest squarely on our shoulders. So the biggest question to answer is, what are we willing to do and what price are we willing to pay to obtain freedom, justice and equality. Therefore, we call on all the families to be present at the Million Family March for probably one of greatest demonstrations of family strength and beauty and hopefully the beginning of family unity. We pray that we can preserve a nation rather than let it continue on its destructive course.

Thank you.