Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Dream Fulfilled

Today Jakob and I sat together and witnessed history in the making. As we sat together watching the inauguration of Barack Obama, I was struck once again at the intensity of my patriotism.

I Love our country, and I am trying to instill that love in my children.

I do not agree with everything that President Obama hopes to accomplish. However, I do respect him as our president. As I listened to him speak today, I believed that he believes in what he says. He is not the "typical" politician. I actually felt like I was experiencing a breath of fresh air as I listened.

I drove past a church this afternoon. It was named "New Hope Bible Church." I reflected on that name and realized that is how I feel about our new president, a new hope.

My hope is that my children will be able to look to president Obama as a man who is an example of integrity. I hope that he will be able to resist the prideful pressure that is so heavy in the political world. I hope he will find a way to help the American people find a way to help themselves. I hope that he will remember his dream for America.

Dreams do come true. Today we witnessed the fulfillment of a dream.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I Have a Dream"

delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for 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.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

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 the table of brotherhood.

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

I have a dream that my four little 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, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and 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, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

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.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with 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!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And 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 snow-capped 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 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!


Anonymous said...

I have been amazed by the history-making events that happened today.
I remember as a small boy my Dad talking to me about Negros, that's what we called them in the
I don't remember if we had any Blacks in my high school at Granger back then. I'm pretty sure we didn't. But Dad acquired from family some old family apartment units just on the west edge of the main railroad tracks in downtown Salt Lake at 300 or 400 North. We were always there repairing them, repainting them. That's when I first mixed with Negros.
They looked different -- and they were very quiet. I remember Dad saying they are just like us -- some are good people and some aren't. He said that because we had a hard time keeping good tenants.
I remember the race riots and the prejudice. To this day I can't believe we had it here in Utah, too. When I heard about the prejudice of whites against Blacks elsewhere, I didn't understand why -- it seemed so anti-Christlike.
I remember how engrossed I became in the Alex Halley TV series -- what an incredible eye-opener.
I remember on my mission we couldn't go to Bluefields, Costa Rica, because it was mostly Blacks and at the time we didn't do missionary work among the Blacks.
I was shocked but thrilled when Pres. Kimball and the church announced that Blacks could now receive the priesthood. I figured, if they were worthy -- great!
But I've lived through that whole history of race riots, segregration, civil rights, Black Panther era, the 60s, pro sports embracing Black atheletes -- and in the past 20 years the incredible number of great black actors and actresses who have shined on the silver screen -- my favorites: Morgan Freeman and Danzel Washington. I think of what Morgan Freeman could have done in movies when he was in his prime.
I recall the stories I heard about Martin Luther King before he was murdered -- the negative things many people said about him -- communist, womanizer. I wondered what was true and what was just propaganda.
I'm not sure if I had ever read all of King's famous "I have a dream" speech, though I have seen the part of it that is most famous.
But reading it today seems like a dream come true now for not just Blacks but for all Americans and a truly a light unto the world of what America is supposed to stand for.
It's a coming together as one people under one God, who loves us all as his children.
I also was so impressed with the comments from the Black woman who is 105 and attended the ceremonies -- she emphasized the coming together of all the races.
Now, we need to show that we can work together for the better good -- under God!

Janee said...

Beautifully put Lena. Today was indeed inspirational...

Patricia Potts said...

I love your sharing and comments Lena. Way to go!!!!!!

Molly said...

Sadly I find just about everything Obama says to be unhopeful and I am truely worried about the state our nation is in and how much it is going to worsen. I love my country too and that is why I'm worried with Obama in charge. The prophets have said the government will decay badly and be hanging on by nothing but a thread by the time the second coming arrives. I guess this is the big step towards that decline.

Wendy Babcock said...

You are always so insightful. I always seem to just post fluff stuff on my blog. I need to take a lesson from you.

Anonymous said...

Its quite unfortunate that his indisputable charisma has snowed so many good Americans. I pray my children grow up to be freedom loving patriots, not swayed by cheap demagogues. His agenda has been socialist at best, but often more communist - as his closest associates have always demonstrated. He is racist, as his voting record, agenda, and associates continue to demonstrate. He has vowed to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, and pursues the homosexual agenda along many lines. He was against Prop. 8. He is pro-abortion. He does not believe in limited government - rather that government is the solution to the ills of the world, clearly counter our belief in individual responsibility. He had the most leftist voting record in the Senate. He comes from the swamp of corruption of Chicago politics. His record of leadership is tremendously thin at best. He will appoint judges at that don't believe in the constitution. We must, within legal bounds, oppose all his initiatives that threaten freedom. I am grateful for the wise division of our government into three branches, but fear the people have chosen unwisely both legislatively and for the executive branch. God bless America!

-your patriotic brother-in-law

Janee said...

Wow, I just CAN'T in good conscious let this be the last comment on such a beautiful and inspiring post.

If Obama’s candidacy represented nothing more than the spark for this profound initiative to unite the working class and defeat the pernicious influence of racism, it would be a transformative candidacy that would advance progressive politics for the long term.

Obama's election will not solve all our problems but it is a significant step that will shift the ground for successful struggles going forward.

One thing is clear. None of the people’s struggles — from peace to health care, to an economy that puts Main Street before Wall Street — would advance if McCain (or any Rep for that matter) was in office. That is just not the Rep/Cons political ideology.

As for Rep/con that think Obama is socialist/communist - that is totally ignorant. The more income a person earns, the more taxes they already pay - it’s called a tax bracket. Right now, those who earn under $8k are in the 10% bracket, while those who earn $356k are in the 35% bracket. We’re already a “tax the wealthy” society. The fact that Obama wants to modify the bracket to shift a bit more burden to the wealthy is not an Earth shattering change for tax payers. And in the long run, everyone would benefit - when the middle class has more money and more security, businesses grow because they will spend that money in the economy (duh).

Our country is in the WORST shape it's ever been in, under Rep control. I don't understand why people are so resistant to positive change? You want more of the last 8 years? I don't. I feel like ultra-conservatives/rad Rep would rather the whole country go down the tubes instead of pulling together behind Obama for good.

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