(CNN) – John McCain launched a tour designed to appeal to moderate voters Monday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a landmark of the civil rights movement.
"There must be no forgotten places in America, whether they have been ignored for long years by the sins of indifference and injustice, or have been left behind as the world grew smaller and more economically interdependent," said the presumptive Republican nominee.
The trip will take McCain to areas far from the standard GOP campaign trail, including hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, the Appalachian region of Kentucky, blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio.
Several weeks ago, the Arizona senator drew boos at his address in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday from protestors angry over his long-ago vote opposing a federal holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader. He has since said that decision was a mistake.
The tour’s inaugural event may have shown how long the journey may still be for the Republican senator: in a state where nearly half the voters are African-American, and in a city where 7 in 10 residents are, there were few black faces in the audience Monday.
Asked about their absence, McCain acknowledged the challenge ahead. "I have had long and varied experience with people from all communities and all ethnic backgrounds in America, and I will continue to work," he said. "And I'm aware of the challenges, and aware of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me.
"But I'm going to be the president for all the people, and I will work for all the people and I will listen to all the people whether they decide to vote for me or not."
The Selma appearance was intended to send a new signal of unity. McCain praised Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who was beaten by Selma police in the famous 1965 march in that city.
Lewis is an Obama supporter. His congressional office said Monday he had not seen McCain's speech.
"John Lewis took the first blow, a baton thrust to the stomach that shoved him back on the marchers behind him. He took the second blow, too, a hard swung club to his head, leaving a permanent scar where it struck," said McCain, who used the congressman’s example to make the case that Americans can overcome any obstacle.