Forty-five years later, as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy on the holiday honoring him, the United States prepares to swear in our first president of African-American descent, Barack Obama.
This historic moment speaks volumes about the progress our nation has made in realizing Rev. King’s faith in the American people. No matter what political party we belong to, we can all be proud of this collective triumph.
Perhaps one of the most positive aspects of this triumph is that the victory is viewed not only in terms of Mr. Obama being the first black U.S. president.
Throughout his political career, President-elect Obama has not characterized himself by race, but rather by his ideas of how citizens as a whole need to overcome the nation’s problems. He understands both typically “black” and “white” perspectives, and is therefore able to bring them together to see a larger picture.
This is evidenced in his extraordinarily frank “A More Perfect Union,” the memorable March, 2008 speech regarding race relations. In it he details with empathy the unique concerns of all races, but goes a step further to say that Americans have bridged the gaps between these concerns and that his candidacy is proof of this success.
Current polls show an overwhelmingly positive acceptance of Mr. Obama as an element of immense change. His actions so far show that he truly wants to fulfill his campaign promise of a greater unity within government. His cabinet appointments have shown a respect for knowledge and a willingness to understand views different from his own.
His ideas look past the surface and recognize that we all want the same things for us and our children: peace, justice and the opportunity to better ourselves.
One of the anthems of the Civil Rights movement was the song “We Shall Overcome.” America has overcome. We have overcome tragedies like Dr. King’s assassination and the Los Angeles riots.
We have overcome divisive radio commentators and insensitive stereotypes in the media and within our own community. These travesties still exist, but they are now seen by most people for what they are – appalling offenses against our basic humanity.
And so we shall continue to overcome such events because the great majority of us know in our hearts that we are all created equal, and that incidents like these spring from a dark and ignorant place that we can rise above.
Like Rev. King, President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden believe in each of us as Americans. They are urging Americans to take responsibility for themselves and their brothers and sisters by participating in a National Day of Service on Jan. 19.
Schools are closed, and this is a perfect opportunity to volunteer as a family to sponsor a cause you believe in. Obama and Biden are challenging us not only to devote this one day to furthering the goals of that organization, but to maintain that support through a continued dedication of time and effort. My family and I intend to proudly honor this challenge, and I hope yours will as well.
The Brentwood Diversity Committee meets at 5 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month in the Delta Room at the Brentwood Police Station, 9100 Brentwood Blvd. Please join us!