I posted this article about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial a few days ago and reading through the comments, something I read profoundly touched me. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, I was in my mother's womb swimming and doing a lot of backstroke I bet and did not know a great man in the real world was paving the way for a better outside world that was awaiting me. Today some 40 years later after his death, his legacy lives on to reach many lives and humanity. I can assure you that had it not been for the many civil rights leaders who had sacrifice their being to change the world like Dr. King did, I may not have this little privilege I have today to talk to you. However, amongst us, many have walked, marched, jailed and prosecuted along side Dr. King and most of all remember the struggle vividly as if it was yesterday.
The comment below was posted by blogger nathkatun7 and it was making the case for why President Obama is the way he is -- a President whose eyes are always on the prize while trying his very best to also be a bridge builder, a monumental legacy and a torch that is passed on to him by Dr. King, which he must continue to exemplify in order to preserve a legacy that some day will earn him many recognition while he faces so much adversity today. I think the comment in its entirety is worth sharing:
I owe everything in my life to the struggles led by Dr King and all those incredibly courageous people, young and old, who sacrificed so much to bring about monumental, though imperfect, changes in America and throughout the world. The poet, Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee) always talked about the difference between long distance runners and short distance runners as a metaphor for those who were ready to give up the struggle because they wanted instant success and those who were prepared to engage in a long struggle. Dr King was a long distance runner. He always knew that change was not going to be a quick sprint. For thirteen years, he carried on the struggle, winning some victories while loosing some, but never giving up. Today, we need the same long distance runners to continue his struggles.
In my humble opinion, I think President Obama is a long distance runner. What he needs are supporters who also believe that progress is never instant. Change requires persistence, patience, and dedication, especially in the face of hostile opponents.
As we honor Dr. King, Lets also honor the wisdom of this young man who was tapped by his community to lead a protracted struggle at the tender age of 26, but who, despite his age, lead one of the most impressive grass roots movement for justice, equality and humanity in America. Sometimes we forget how young Dr. King was-- just barely 39 years old-- when he was assassinated. I was 17 years old when Dr. King gave his famous "I have a Dream speech." And I was 22 years old when he was assassinated. Yet even at such a young age, I learned from Dr. King that the struggle for justice and equality would not be easy. He always insisted on letting people know that the struggle for justice, equality and human dignity required discipline, sacrifice, maturity and a willingness to believe in the goodness of all human beings.
I know that a great many of so called progressives have been attacking the President for trying his best to talk to Republicans who hate him so much. But I feel he is following the foot steps of Dr. King, who urged us to do our best to lovingly talk to everyone, including our enemies.
In this day of 24 hours news cycle, in the face of unprecedented resistant infused by a tea-party ideology that want to make government irrelevant with all the challenge we face as a country, President Obama has been nothing but gracious trying to implement an approach that will win the future - be it health care, energy independence, financial reform, solving our debt crisis, foreign policy, etc., staying above the many partisan squabbling we see in Washington while focusing on a liberal vision that are paramount for Democrats in the long-term and effectively fulfilling his promises while some being compromised because of the Party of NO.
Barack Obama has made part of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream a reality when he become the President of the United States. He was in fact not judged by the color of his skin but the content of his character. However, ever after 40 years, MLK's dream is not fulfilled and the struggle for justice, equality and human dignity is still a work-in-progress endeavor with so many class and race disparities. While some of us would like to see many radical changes in two and half years of the Obama Presidency, change is a struggle we have to work harder for in our system of Government as MLK did then and President Obama is working towards today.
I think The Optimism of Uncertainty by Howard Zinn speaks volume to me and I often find myself referring to it about how we can fulfill our DREAMS:
We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.The only way to reaching new heights in our political environment to fulfilling the DREAM is to understand that we must stay focused on the common good to improve each others lives and bridge a coalition no matter what our race, religion and beliefs are . If we want to see the kind of progressive changes we are seeking, we have to recognize and ensure that our common enemy and an obstacle to every progressive ideology must be defeated. That was what Dr. King has been doing all his life with thoughtful words. President Obama understands that legacy and is following MLK's foot steps while many want to see him be combative and angry only to misunderstand that there are many ways to be combative without showing you are angry.
Some of us believe in the approach President Obama is taking and some of us don't but if we choose to focus our energy in seeing only the worst, it sure will destroy our capacity to do something to fulfill the vision of Dr. King -- to win the struggle for justice, equality and human dignity.
I am a pragmatic who is interested in electing more and better Democrats that will help make the DREAM come true and I will add that "that Pragmatism" has shown me many good things. As a reminder, the 111th Congress under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid had made it possible for President Obama and this Administration to achieve many important legislative accomplishments. The 112th Congress however has done very little compared to this comprehensive list of successes by the Obama administration and the 111th Congress and we know why that is. If Democrats are ever to achieve any success, as Jonathan Chait of the New York Time noted, they must "stop wanting both maximal partisan conflict and maximal legislative achievement" which he notes are often at odds. Some feel President Obama does not understand them. He does. He just respectfully disagrees with their approach and the maximum partisan conflict is not the approach he chooses to take regardless of the beating he takes each and everyday. MLK said:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. ~Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963MLK has seen so much cruelty, the lynching, physical violence and systemic slavery under Jim Crow in his time but choose to emphasis peace, love and non violent message to win the struggle that is still no yet fully fulfilled.
As progressives, what we choose to emphasize in this complex time will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to fulfill our DREAMS by letting Teaparty ideologues shape the path for this country which means destroying our ability to do something fundamentally game changing. We can do that with President Obama but we must learn to be patient. We must continue to help him win re-election and take back the 113th Congress so that we can continue building on the progress we have made during the 111th Congress.
Our President is indeed a long distance runner. We must understand he is made of something extraordinary that is hard to understand to most Americans but he has always been principled. I recall reading this article by Sasha Abramsky at the Gardian and encourage every one to read it in its entirety:
As a politician, President Obama has always been a long-distance runner. When early supporters panicked in the autumn of 2007, a few months before the Iowa caucus, and convened meetings with the candidate to urge a more aggressive stance versus Clinton, Obama told them he was going to adhere to the script created by Axelrod, Plouffe and himself. He did, and a couple weeks before the caucus, he pulled ahead in the polls. When the pundits opined that he was being too passive after the Democratic party's August 2008 convention and was giving an opening to McCain and Palin, he urged his team to stay calm, to stay focused … and sure enough, his poll numbers rebounded. Numerous of Obama's friends told me, while I was reporting my book Inside Obama's Brain, that he is congenitally even-keeled, a man who revels in staying calm under pressure and in remaining consistent despite the shifting sands around him.One thing that is for sure is that President Obama's vision is never short-sighted and has always been aimed at helping those most in need while the Republicans pester him at every stage of policy making denying him support on any of his agenda. However, as the former New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo said:
"Never has the world needed strong and wise American leadership more than it does now...[President] Obama's personal gifts makes it clear that he is remarkably suited to be the president the moment requires."The road ahead is not a sprint to victory, it is a long distance marathon that will require a lot of patience while building a majority. That is exactly what MLK did and that is what President Obama is trying to do. I am standing by my President and will continue supporting him. I hope you do the same too because in the long haul we will be a better country and a great nation we ones used to be if we support our pragmatic president and fight along side him to building a majority. What we have in President Obama, to quote Al Pacino from the movie "Scent of a Woman", is "a valuable future. Believe me. Don’t destroy it! Protect it. Embrace it. It’s gonna make ya proud one day — I promise you."