WASHINGTON - As 250,000 people packed central Washington to push for civil rights 50 years ago, the actor Burt Lancaster opened a scroll and read a petition brought in from Paris.
The statement, signed by 1,500 Americans in the French capital, saluted the March on Washington for providing "an example of what America aspires to become."
"All Americans, traveling no matter where in the world today, are in the position of ambassadors and are very often made bitterly aware of our country's reputation," said the petition, read by Lancaster in his crisp delivery.
"It is not easy to be an American abroad," said the petition, calling the movement for civil rights part of a "struggle toward freedom" being waged worldwide.
American students learn of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom as a defining moment in the nation's history, with Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech and Congress less than a year later banning laws that enforced racial segregation.
But the march also carried an international dimension, coming at a delicate moment in the Cold War in which the United States increasingly realised that its oppression of African Americans cost it dearly on the global stage.
The march was one of the first events to be broadcast live internationally, with the BBC and other networks in Europe fed from the then-revolutionary Telstar satellite. The now defunct Washington Evening Star reported that police issued media credentials to television crews from Canada, France, Germany and Japan.