Thursday, August 28, 2008

We Can Dare to Hope

When Barak Obama was one of a dozen or so announced candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, there were a number of African-Americans, including myself, considered it to be yet another symbolic effort.

Iowa changed that, and then the other states. The tight race with Hillary Clinton changed that. And last night made it certain that while symbolism was involved, substance was involved. And now, we have reached a watershed moment in our nations history.

Forty-five years after Martin Luther King 's "I Have a Dream Speech"

One hundred forty-five years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed

the first African-American in the history of our country is nominated by a major party as a candidate for the highest office in the land.

African-Americans and others, were conditioned not to hope. Tonight we saw that it is perfectly alright to hope. This doesn't solve all of our country's problems and its not supposed to.

But every attempt to achieve resolution to any problem begins with hope.

Leonard Pitts, one of my favorite columnists, says it better than I can:

"In the first part of the momentous speech he [Martin Luther King] gave at the Lincoln Memorial, the part schoolchildren don't memorize and pundits never quote, Martin Luther King Jr. reminded a watching world that in writing the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the founders were 'signing a promissory not to which every American was to fall heir."

"This note," said Dr. King, "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." His evocation of this great American promise may be less well known than Dr. King's description, moments later , of his great American dream, but there is, nevertheless, a straightforward clarity to it that it compels. Because where race is concerned, what is American history if not the story of how that promise was repeatedly broken? As Dr. King put it five years later in the last speech of his life, "All we say to America is 'be true to what you said on paper'."

"But America never did."

"Except that now, here comes Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan and a Kansan, striding to the podium to accept the nomination of his party for president of the United States. It comes 45 years to the very day after Dr. King said he had a dream America's promise might someday be fulfilled, 100 years and a day after the birth of the president, Lyndon Johnson who helped nudge that dream toward reality. The timing requires you, if you have any music in your soul, any ''soul" in your soul, to reappraise both the promise and the dream."

"The realization coalesces something some of us never dared hope and others never dared fear the idea that one day America would take its promise seriously.

We can dare to hope.

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