Looking out at the tens of thousands of supporters lining the National Mall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, NAACP President Ben Jealous found himself traveling back in time.

“Twenty years ago I was a young organizer, and had been kicked out of school in New York City and was organizing campaigns. And walked the [Mall’s] entire distance right next to Ben Hooks, who was president of the NAACP, and we met walking across the Mall,” Jealous told reporter. “When I look out there, I think of that day and of all the days that we’ve been out here.”

He’s also mindful of the days to come, as well as the parallels that can be made between 1963 and 2013, including the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and an ongoing fight to protect the right to vote.

“We’re very clear and very focused. We’re fighting on multiple fronts at once, but we’ve been winning in multiple places,” Jealous said. “We’ve passed more laws expanding voter rights than we’ve lost, and we’re ultimately optimistic.”