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President-elect Barack Obama and The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted: Jan 19, 2009

It was a blistering day in August of 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered the speech now known as "I Have a Dream.” He was only 34 years old, and he had already made history.

King, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929, would have celebrated his 80th birthday on Thursday of last week, and had he lived, he would have seen his dream come true.

Yesterday, on a frigid January day, as I watched the We Are One celebration broadcast from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I knew I was seeing a vision of the promised land that Dr. King had only glimpsed from the mountaintop

Tomorrow America will inaugurate its 44th President of the United States, an African American named Barack Hussein Obama. Those of us who grew up in the segregated sixties (in spite of Brown vs. The Board of Education), who listened to Martin Luther King's speeches, who read his letters from jail, and who watched with horror the videotape of his assassination on television in our living rooms, can now proudly bear witness to a day that few of us imagined we would ever see.

Forty-six years ago when Dr. King stood on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial and inspired us to look upon one another as brothers and sisters, such a world seemed impossible. The Vietnam War was escalating, in less than three weeks the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, would be bombed killing four little girls, President John F. Kennedy would be assassinated in less than three months, and, before the decade was over, Martin Luther King, Jr., himself would be murdered at the age of 39. The world seemed bleak indeed, and any dream of brotherhood impossible to conceive.

King left Atlanta in 1954 (the same year as the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision that paved the way for school desegregation) to become the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was only 25. Soon he would become a primary leader in the Civil Rights Movement helping to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, the march on Washington in 1963, and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965.

On April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to support the sanitation workers strike, King delivered his famous “Mountaintop” speech. The concluding paragraph of that speech begins with these lines: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now, I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people,, will get to the promised land. “ By seven the next evening, Martin Luther King was dead.

Tomorrow, just four short decades after his death, Martin Luther King’s dream will become a reality. A courageous and compassionate man who shares King's vision will take the oath of office as President of these United States. Let us all hope and pray that this is the beginning of the world envisioned by King, a world in which “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” A world in which no persons will be judged “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, ”and, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, a world in which all persons are created equal and all “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Today I join with the late Sam Cooke in saying “It’s been a long, a long time coming, But I know a change gonna come!!!”  (photo courtesy of Reuters)

 ---Penne J. Laubenthal

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michaelbuffalo says...

What a great article Penne. Just great. You are an amazing writer and we at Swampland are blesed to have you on board... Like you and sister Peggy, I share the hope. The Lincoln Memorial show was awesome, and seeing Springsteen and Pete Seger lead that sing along on "This Land is Your Land" gave me chills. I loved that one lady who told her children, "While you were asleep last night, Dr. King's dream came true." Beautiful. I miss the river. Love to visit again soon. All my love to you and to Peggy and of course Billy C.!

pegfarlow says...

Wow Sister! Once again I have chills and a strong feeling of hope...watching the inauguration of President Obama and now reading your blog written with the heartfelt passion your writings reveal...thank you for the hours that you dedicate so we may share your knowledge and appreciation of LIFE.

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