After ‘March,’ feeling hopeful about the ‘Dream’
9th September 2013 · 0 Comments
By Dr. Barbara Reynolds
Obama’s speech was not just a wander down memory lane. He reiterated his resolve to fight the forces that have kept Black unemployment often twice that of whites, failing schools and urged people not to make “poverty as an excuse for not raising your children.”
Symbolism aside, however, there were some such as DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton who said Obama should have used the moment to talk tough to a recalcitrant Congress which has consistently blocked his measures to uplift the poor and the middle-class. Some were disappointed that he did not restate the pledge of Atty. General Eric Holder to probe how the Justice Department can impact the unfair outcome of George Zimmerman walking free after killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. And while he spoke against the legislative moves to block voting rights, he did not address voting rights for the district.
There were hundreds of other causes and concerns he could have addressed, but he did outline a powerful prescription for change. It goes far beyond the superman syndrome of one man. It called for collective struggle of committed activism.
“The good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path, in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations; where politics is a zero-sum game where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie—that’s one path. Or we can have the courage to change.”
President Obama reminded the crowds that change rarely comes from Washington but from the bottom up. In other words, he threw the gauntlet down, not just to Congress, or racist extremists, or budget cutters, but to those still waiting for their turn, their change. The answer is not one Superman, but super-people fired up with the courage to change.
President Clinton uttered a similar message:” Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear us complain,” said Clinton. “It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back.”
As the close of the ceremonies, the five-year-old daughter of Martin III, Yolanda, (named after Dr. King’s oldest child who died in 2007 at the age of 51) rang the bell that once hung at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where a firebomb took the lives of four little girls less than a month after the March. Her grandfather ended his 1963 speech with a prophetic vision that one day instead of violence freedom would ring across the nation.
If freedom continues to ring and reign, if this generation follows the president’s prescription for change, one day even a woman who looks something like Dr. King’s adult granddaughter will be standing at that sacred spot as president addressing the nation.
This article originally published in the September 9, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.