On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his resounding "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, inspiring the nation to think about and act on racial inequality. Tonight at the Democratic National Convention, a young man sired by an African named Obama will officially accept his party's nomination for President of the United States of America.
The timing of Obama's ascent, culminating with his acceptance speech tonight, seems beyond uncanny. But something more uncanny than the timing exists. Underlying Dr. King's now famous words was the intent of shining a spotlight on the poor treatment of African Americans. But within his message, Dr. King also said this:
"...many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom."In other words, Dr. King predicted the disconcerting circumstances in which many non-black Americans are surprised to find themselves today.
The American middle class feels increasingly threatened by the dissipation of jobs that pay a decent wage, a highly discriminating health care system, a shrinkage of what the U.S. dollar affords, a dazzling domino-style collapse of homeownership due to foreclosures, and other forces that are crippling the American psyche...
Three years ago, almost to the day, too, Hurricane Katrina blew into New Orleans, causing mass devastation unlike anything we've witnessed in America. What a startling eye-opener that was, that an entire major city could go under -- dead bodies floating everywhere -- and the governments who've promised us protections in return for tax dollars would skip beat after beat to help people survive.
The sea of panicked faces we watched struggle through Katrina overwhelmingly were black. But those being sucked down by a Katrina-like economy and war today are not. They are white, Hispanic -- you name it. And still, there seems to be no "life preserver" available to toss.
Dr. King warned 45 years ago today that Americans would sink or swim together. Well, look at where so many of us are today: drowning in anxiety. Many minorities have waded these treacherous waters for a very long time - historically, in fact. Sadly, too many others are getting to know this lonely, overwhelming feeling, too.
As has been repeated at the Democratic National Convention, America cannot afford four more years of the same. Yes, it is awesome that an African American will accept the nomination tonight. This is a wonderful aspect of Dr. King's dream come true.
But let's not miss the message beyond the symbolizm: Poor treatment for one is evidence that it can happen to all. That poor treatment is manifesting in every area, from how our veterans are treated to how affairs to how people's paychecks are being pilfered as oil profits.
Today marks the beginning of the fight - the fight to protect the American quality of life. God bless America: Let our great melting pot catch afire tonight.
Witnesses to Dr. King's Dream See a New Hope (New York Times)
I Have A Dream (full text of speech by Martin Luther King Jr.)
Dr. King - Key Resources and Links (Arlington Library)
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