Yesterday, President Obama dedicated the dramatic 30-foot high Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial emerging out of granite, and that moment of unveiling was a grand indicator of how far we’ve come in a short time and oh how so much much farther we have to travel together.
Our work is not done. And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles. First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination. It took a full decade before the moral guidance of Brown v. Board of Education was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but those 10 long years did not lead Dr. King to give up. He kept on pushing, he kept on speaking, he kept on marching until change finally came.
And then when, even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn’t say those laws were a failure; he didn’t say this is too hard; he didn’t say, let’s settle for what we got and go home. Instead he said, let’s take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let’s fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work. In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today. He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow.
It is speeches like that in which we are reminded of Obama’s greatness. He is a good man who wants to do the right thing — but he has been unfairly bound by Bush’s failed military history and historic debts that are due in his first term and he has to deal with a Republican caucus determined to make him a single term President.
Obama endures. He keeps his head down and he continues to do the job. He isn’t a quitter. He knows he can’t get too angry or too loud or he’ll be playing into the stereotype of the Angry Black Man that the Right are so determined to pepper him with in the Press.
The GOP want to stereotype Obama as a miserable failure and so, those of us who elected him, and who know better, must know that he knows more than we do about how the first Black President in the USA needs to operate to get things done in a first term — and if he’s asking for my faith and my dedication and my money to help him get re-elected — he has it.
Great article, David. It was a fantastic speech. Wish I had been there for it!
It closed one circle and created another.