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Why Obama Personifies MLK's Dream for America

Although vestiges of our racist past still linger, Americans are moving forward with Barack Obama's second inauguration.

On Monday, Jan. 21, Barack Obama will be inaugurated for the second time as President of the United States. The same day the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It does not celebrate my birthday, which happens to be January 21, 1928, the year before Dr. King was born.

The two events celebrated Monday are not unconnected. Dr. King was an extraordinary civil rights leader who was gifted with intelligence, energy, passion, vision and superb oratory. Before he spoke to a huge crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 23, 1963, the election of a black man to be president of the United States was simply not possible. Excerpted below, this is what he said that changed that:*

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, 'My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'"

It is not too much to say that Dr. King’s speech reversed the course of racial segregation in the United States. He did not do it alone. There were many heroes who helped: children attended segregated schools often with the help of the military; women like Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus; lawyers like Thurgood Marshall fought segregation in the courts and later, as a Supreme Court justice continued the fight within the Supreme Court itself. Some blacks and other civil rights advocates were murdered (as was Dr. King) or badly beaten.

One of those heroes was Barack Obama. When he was first ran for president in 2008 there was no certainty that racial tension had abated enough in the United States to elect a black man president. It took courage and incredible talent to put himself forward as a candidate, and his first inauguration was a miracle. In a sense, Dr. King’s dream had been partially realized.

Obama’s first term was beset by viral opposition in very difficult times. There is no question that some of that opposition was based on racism. There is a close tie between the Tea Party and racist groups. This is not to imply that every Tea Party member is a racist, but the overlay of racists in that party is clear from the comments they make online--even on this site--and in the public press.

The fact that Obama is about to have his second inauguration is even more of a miracle. This time it is not that the country is less racist (although I think it is), but because the racial shift in our country has given minorities a much bigger say in our elections and, the predictions are, their power will grow in future elections.

I, personally, have a dream that shortly Obama will be able to overcome the opposition of the leadership of the NRA and succeed in instituting reasonable gun control in the United States. This involves no threat to Second Amendment rights, but merely the intelligence of the American people. I dream, too, that the Republicans will be wise enough to increase the debt ceiling without holding the poor and unemployed hostage. None of us can afford to decimate the full faith and credit of the United States.

As Hamlet said, "'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

*Note: To watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in its entirety, click on the YouTube video thumbnail that accompanies this column.

Allan Bach January 18, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Keep dreaming, Joel. To compare Barack Obama to Martin Luther King, Jr. is like comparing Joel Katz to Moses. Dr. King cared about the persecuted blacks and get the people back to self-supporting dignity. He gave his life for the cause of equality. Barack Obama cares so much about minorities that he wants to make them dependent on Government handouts. For you to write that the Tea Party has close ties to racist groups, then attempt to prove your point by citing comments made on Patch is way out of line. You have every right to pen your views of your love for the Democratic Party, the President, and your idea of the ignorance of the American people, phrased with "I believe", but to say "There is no question..." is wrong. Could it be that your dream is really a nightmare?
Arthur Joel Katz January 18, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Allan: If you can read, you could understand that I did not compare MLK to Obama. The burden of what I said was that MLK made the election of Obama possible. As to nightmares, you fill the bill.
Gerry Kranz January 19, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Katz, you guilty whites see racists lurking in every dark corner. I agree with your premise that the culmination of the work and sacrifice by people like MLK has been the election of the mixed-race Obama to the office of President. But you are wrong when you say that the Tea Party has close ties to racist organizations. you have no proof. Comments by anonymous people on a local Patch site does not constitute proof of any link.using your your version of hearsay proof, anyone opposed to tax increases or supporting entitlement limits is a racist. Then you ramble into a paragraph about the opposition of the NRA to gun control. You actually manage to destroy your persuasive piece further (which is quite a feat) by shoving one last jab at Republicans and the debt control debate. I think that Allan DID read your piece, but I would say that your writing was so poor that he commented as best he could on your muddled prose. Maybe you should have someone proofread your stuff at the senior center.
Arthur Joel Katz January 19, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Kranz: I am not a "guilty white." I do know that you are guilty of ageism. That senior center crack was out of bounds and you know it.

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