MOSCOW - Morris Dees, a lawyer and major foe of the Aryan Nations in the North Idaho hate group's heyday, said Tuesday at the University of Idaho that the work of fighting for equality continues on fronts such as U.S. immigration, health care and public education.
"There are millions among us who find neither opportunity nor justice," Dees said, speaking to a full ballroom inside the Student Union Building on the university campus.
Reflecting back on Martin Luther King Jr.'s success decades earlier, Dees said, "I don't think Dr. King intended for his dream to be a static thing."
Dees said the "march for justice" continues on numerous issues.
"How are we going to treat millions, especially Latinos, among us who make the wheels of our commerce and industry work?" Dees said. He compared those immigrant workers' treatment to that of African-Americans in the deep South during the 1950s and 1960s.
He also cited the sometimes poor treatment of gays and lesbians. "So many people in this (gay and lesbian) community find themselves and their rights violated, abused, (and) denied equal protection of the law," Dees said.
Meantime, incomes are rising for the rich, he said, while for other Americans the numbers aren't changing or are declining.
"People don't have the ability to have a good living," he said.
Additionally, much more needs to be done to protect kids in schools from bullies, and provide all kids in the public school system with a valuable education.
"I could go on and on with the issues that face us today, that are part of this march for justice," Dees said. "One particularly important issue deals with health care."
He said the Congress is gridlocked today because of the debate over health care for all citizens, and President Barack Obama's landmark health-care reform legislation. He criticized Republicans in Congress for trying to defund the law.
"(The law) is being held hostage by a very narrow group of people who are concerned, and I want to say afraid, because of the changing nature of our nation," Dees said.
He added that the opponents of Obama's Afordable Care Act "don't like the fact that millions of Americans - who are not like them, who have different values than them - are going to get some of the goods and services of this nation, and this really disturbs them."
He followed that by saying that when he was in school about 12 percent of the American population was made up of "people of color," but today the number has reached 36 percent. He predicted that by 2040 people of color would combine to account for a majority of the population.
"The election of Obama for two terms shows that this coalition of people is coming together," he said. The trend "really frightens a large segment of our population," he said, adding that there "has been an enormous rise in hate groups."
Dees, whose speech Tuesday was titled "With justice for all in a changing America," is best known in North Idaho for a legal victory over the Aryan Nations that included a $6 million judgment that bankrupted the hate group. He's also known as an author, writing books such as "Hate on Trial" and "Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat."
He co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national public interest law firm with more than 40 lawyers. He graduated from the University of Alabama law school after growing up on a cotton farm in a rural part of the southern state.
"I had a chance to work in cotton farms alongside African Americans," he said.
In an interview after Dees' speech, Michael Satz, dean of the College of Law at UI, said he hoped law students and others at the university left determined to stand up for injustice, as Dees had done many times. Dees, he said, is an important historical figure.
Hate groups can be beat, Satz said, when a community and leaders come together to stop them.
"It's scary to make a choice to fight injustice, because you have to stand up," Satz said. "Someone has to be the first person to stand up, and I hope they'll be that first person."