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Dr. King and President Obama: An Inauguration For the History Books

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  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    I've often thought what Martin Luther King Jr. would think if he lived to see the day that President Obama was elected as President of the United States. It had been only forty-five years since his infamous speech to over 200,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial declaring that he had a dream. A dream that people of all races and religions could work together to take the American dream into the future. A dream that America actually lives by its creed that ALL men are created equal. What would he have been feeling if he was there to witness history in the making? America elected its first black President. Could he have ever imagined a day like that would happen in only forth-five short years?

    President Obama's Second Inaugural just happens to fall on a day that millions of Americans pause to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr. and the impact that he had on our nation. Mr. Obama has surely taken note of this because he has chosen to place Dr. King's bible on top of President Lincoln's bible when he takes the oath of office. The historical significance of this should not be over looked: this will mark the first time that Dr. King's bible is being used for a swearing in ceremony.

    Our country is no where near the racial equality that Dr. King envisioned when he gave that passionate speech back in 1963, but we are moving forward. President Obama is well aware of this as he prepares to take the helm for another four years. I hope that he takes a page off of Dr. King and states his dream for the future of America. A future that guarantees ALL children a quality education and a future that everyone in this country has an equal shot at whatever they put their mind to.

    "And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
    Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
    But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
    And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
    -Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Jared --

    I appreciate you sharing this. Yes, one can look at life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to see how much influence he has had on Barack Obama, but also the black community as a whole. AlterNet has an article this morning by Bijan C, Bayne:

    8 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    In it he discusses King's early life and I'll briefly hit a few tidbits.

    Dr. King was influenced by Mohandas K. Gandhi's nonviolent resistance as a strategy for social change. When and his wife visited India in 1958 he proclaimed to the gathered media upon landing: "To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim."

    Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign was his last great campaign in 1968 before he was killed. It brought activists and impoverished Americans of various ethnicities, including Appalachians, Native Americans, Chicano migrant workers and Southern blacks, to Washington to live in tented camps on the National Mall. As 1968 was a presidential election year, it's purpose was to draw attention to the issue of poverty by bringing the people to DC in mule drawn carriages. The tented villages were called Resurrection City. After his death, 3,000 citizens continued to live in tents alongside the National Mall for six weeks until they were eventually evicted.

    Dr. King died leaving no appreciable assets for his family, despite having written five books, made hundreds of speaking engagements, and having earned $54,600 as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In keeping with his own vow of relative poverty, he donated that Nobel Prize money to his movement. King's funeral procession "featured not Cadillacs or Lincoln limousines, but a humble casket drawn by a mule carriage representative of his final mission, the Poor People's Campaign."
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    What a great post Schmidt. I witnessed that HUMBLE funeral procession on television myself. That is exactly what it missing from the majority of politicians today---humility. And a little, just a little, of that can certainly go a long way. Maybe that is the cure to everything that bothers anyone, showing humility from BOTH sides. Share the responsibility and you'll share the glory.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Notable quotes comparing the similarity of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those of President Barack Obama:

    "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." -- Barack Obama

    “We don't ask you to believe in our ability to bring change, rather, we ask you to believe in yours.” -- Barack Obama

    “One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” -- Barack Obama

    “I Have A Dream” -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope” -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    “I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting." -- Barack Obama

    “While we breathe, we will hope.” -- Barack Obama

    “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” -- Barack Obama

    "Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have courage to remake the world as it should be.” -- Barack Obama

    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    "It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today." -- Barack Obama

    “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    “If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.” -- Barack Obama
  • Liberal Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    In my previous post I sought to compare Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Obama on hope (dreams) and change. I found some good quotes by both, not only on those topics but also others. However, there was one notable exception. Dr. King's library of quotes includes numerous quotes on the topic of "hate." Examples:

    "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    "Let no man pull you low enough to hate him." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    "Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    On the other hand, I could not find any similar notable quotes by Barack Obama on hate. In fact the word "hate" is just not a part of his vocabulary. When I did an internet search using the key words "Obama quotes" and "hate" I found pages of websites dedicated to hating Obama, and some of those have really nasty content, full of hate. The one reference to hate that I could find from Obama was in a speech to the United Nations in which he defended hate speech as a right of our Constitution:

    "The answer is enshrined in our laws. Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech…. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views—even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened."

    "We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because, given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech—the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect."
    -- Barack Obama

    I can appreciate that Dr. King and President Obama have different roles, but why can't President Obama speak more about hate? Our society right now is consumed by hate so he should not sidestep the unchecked cancer that is destroying our sense of values and objectivity.

    I would like to hear President Obama quote Dr. King in his inauguration speech today: "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."