MLK and Obama

MLK and Obama

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Change. The number of times the word “change” has been spoken in the United States during the last year or two seems impossible to count. As Barack Obama campaigned for presidency, change was sought. And when he won? “Change [had] come to America.” Today, as we anticipate tomorrow’s Inauguration (whether it be with dread or excitement), we also anticipate the changes that will begin to transpire.

As media flurried to and fro with Inauguration celebration happenings, they also recalled that today is Martin Luther King Day. If anyone has missed or not heard about the connection there then s/he must be living under a rock where cell phone and internet are unavailable. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I had to choose the above quote from MLK that seemed perfectly fitting as such a crossroads.

“Change has come,” but it did not come over night. As a history major, I know that this change has been hundreds of years in the making. Continuous struggle. Abolitionists fought to end slavery, but they did not all fight for equal rights. Many would have scoffed at the idea of a black man as president. President Lincoln worked to preserve this nation, but even the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free slaves and it only applied to those states that had seceded. As many of us know, the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments did not change the way black men, women, and children were treated. Dr. King, while certainly a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement, was one of many that continued the struggle for change throughout the second half of the 20th century.

Tomorrow, President-Elect Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and history will (officially) be made. It won’t be the end of the struggle though. Civil rights still need protecting for many. Citizenship must be recognized. We each need to straighten up, continue the struggle, work together to build peace, and help our country to be great. This morning, Mr. Obama shared a similar sentiment while remarking,

“Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King’s dream echoes still. As we do, we recognize that here in America, our destinies are inextricably linked. We resolve that as we walk, we must walk together. And as we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let’s remember King’s lesson – that our separate dreams are really one.”

We must walk together and see the human dignity that our founding fathers proclaimed we each hold innately. Lincoln reminded those at Gettyburg that we were (and are) a country “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We must recognize our own dignity and the dignity of our neighbors. See the equality. See how we are one as a human race. Live in a way that demonstrates your recognition of our connectedness to one another.

And tomorrow as we watch and participate in the Inauguration of our newly elected president, let us remember our past as we look to our future.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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