Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Common Vision...a Shared Hope

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963:

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. 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.


President Barack Obama, October 16, 2011:

And just as we draw strength from Dr. King's struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."...

And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King's teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person's shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain...

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo...Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest. But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company's union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other's love for this country -- with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.

(P.S. Is it my imagination, or did he get a little choked up at the end?)


  1. There is something about seeing this monument and President Obama that is moving me to tears! Regardless of what is said, yes, President Obama does fulfill Dr. King's dream!

  2. princss6,

    I got a little teary several times during the ceremony - especially watching President Obama clearly moved by Aretha singing "Precious Lord."

  3. I need to watch. I think I would have been sobbing. Thank you for posting these wonderful pictures and featuring this occasion!

  4. ..Michelle looked as if she was crying! I was crying too. The music touched my heart.

  5. Thanks for quoting this part of the speech ... 'But he [MLK] also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there [MUST BE THE POSSIBILITY OF RECONCILIATION;]'

    I listened to the speech 3 times, SP, and these particular words never registered. Of course they do not surprise me, because this is one of the major tenets of the President's politics that attracts me. The fact that he regularly does not demonize his adversaries; that he always leaves a hole for them to save face is a teaching point for me. While the President is never afraid to speak truth to the face of his adversaries, he continues to work towards true and lasting change by never deliberately trying to obliterate them. Yet, he does not seem averse to them making themselves irrelevant by showing their underbellies. What's that favourite expression of yours again, SP, that identifies his governing style? It's on the tip of my tongue but my mind has blanked out!

    Oh, well. I must say I really was moved by this speech. We are in one lucky spot in history, if only we all do our part in the next election and not make a mess of things.

  6. VC - I'm guessing you're referring to the phrase "conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy." And yeah, I love that description!

    This part of the speech is - to me - quintessential Obama. Its his vision. Has been since day one and continues to be. And he shares it 100% with MLK.

  7. Admirable personalities aside, I thought the speech today was a brilliant piece of writing in the way it echoed the original yet reflected on the current situation. And I have to say I love when the Prez gets his preacher voice on.