The Rev. William Barber II called Monday for members of Congress and legislative leaders around the country to commit to fighting poverty and systemic racism.

The civil rights leader and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign addressed a crowd in a public plaza near North Carolina's legislature. The gathering kicked off a year of events for the Third Reconstruction project, building toward a march next summer in Washington.

Barber said ending poverty and addressing social problems must become a top legislative priority. He said goals include raising minimum wage; protecting voter rights; and guaranteeing quality health care, housing and education.

“The issue is not scarcity of money. It's not a scarcity of ideas. The only issue is a scarcity of moral consciousness. And the only way that changes is for us to realize that we have work to do,” he said, according to prepared remarks released before the rally. “We will do it. We have to do it. Because we refuse to give up on America.”

Participants were urged to ask their member of Congress to support a U.S. House resolution that would affirm their commitment to fighting poverty and low wages.

In a pre-recorded video, President Joe Biden applauded the work of Barber's campaign.

“Rev. Barber, we've been together to commemorate tragedies as we were in Tulsa. We've been together to celebrate victories. But I don't think we've ever been together at a time of such opportunity to deliver dignity for our nation's poor and low-wage workers and make ending poverty not just an aspiration but a theory of change,” he said.

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