Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama and the Audacity of Dreams

In my lifetime, I've had many dreams. Perhaps my biggest dream was that the words that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. intoned so eloquently on August 28, 1963 would become a reality. Most people only remember one part of Dr. King's speech on that day, the part where he speaks of dreaming that one day his four children will live in a nation where they "...will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

However there are other parts of that speech that resonate with me. Barack Obama has referenced a phrase from King's speech on numerous occasions, "the urgency of now." I think that Obama knows the entire speech and has not forgotten any part of it.

As Dr. King began his historic speech forty-five years ago, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he spoke of the history of black people, my people, in words that still move me.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

I was eight years old that summer and I lived in a world where the dream of racial justice was far from a reality. For all of my childhood and a large share of my adult life, that dream has been tantalizingly out of reach, that check has remained uncashed.

Tonight as I watched President-elect Barack Obama stride onto the stage in front of a crowd of over 100,000 people, a tapestry of race and ethnicity, I felt giddy with joy and hope. For the first time in my life, I feel that this is truly my country. I believe that America can and will make good on that promissory note. It won't be simple and it won't be immediate. We still have our walls that divide us and we have to learn to listen to each other, and to respect each other. We have to learn to accept our differences rather than trying to shape everyone into some generic norm that means giving up parts of one's sense of culture and identity.

It has truly been a long time coming, but I think that we may have just received a payment from the bank of justice.

The video is of an a capella singing group that I like a great deal known as Sweet Honey in the Rock. The song is entitled Ella's Song and is a tribute to civil rights activist Ella Baker. The video includes the lyrics.


Jan said...

Sheria Like you I am excited by the history and the true meaning of all this I am so pleased Mr OBAMA is now your president ,I can clearly remember Dr Kings speech ,wouldnt he be pleased ? Jan xx

Yasmin said...

Great post Sheria, "The Content Of their Character,(you did a post with this title) I think Barack Obama was judged on this, what a great day for America, and the rest of the world, I sat up almost all night to see the result, and saw History being made.
The song by Ella Baker is so apt, it's a new dawn and a new day.


Beth said...

Wow, what a ride! Congratulations, dear Sheria, you know how thrilled I am. And our home states came through for us! I'm as excited about Indiana going for Obama as I am about the landslide win.

I couldn't be happier for you, for me, for our country, and for the entire world.

The sun is shining here, and record high temperatures are forecast. It is indeed a new day...and a beautiful one.

Love ya,

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Definitely a historic moment, and we were very moved by his speech. Let the healing begin.

Robin said...

It felt so momentous to press my finger on the box that'd give an X by Barack Obama and Joseph Biden. I cried again some this a.m., and I'm not even at all black or African American. There is much in this dream, that is being realized. Reality is happening, and it won't be perfect but it'll be oh so much better living the dream in reality, than holding on to an unrealized dream.

Leigh said...

We have alot of reasons to be hopeful, this morning.
:) Leigh

Dannelle said...

A new beginning- Glad NC came on strong- I went to school there (Raleigh, NC) in the sixties and whoa, glad it has changed! Dannelle

Saltydawg said...

I phoned my Mum excitedly today on my way to Manchester UK, she reminded me how myself and my brother sat on her lap and watched MLK speech all those years ago. I was 5 years old at the time, she told us then, that there would one day be a black President of the United States and how she hoped it would happen in my life time. She was right of course.
Gaz xxx

Indigo said...

I think I recall saying your mother was smiling down and had an insiders hint, who would win. She's beaming today hon....

I love that song so fitting in the aftermath of history having been made. My favorite line was, "The only way I go on, is with the reigns in the hands of the young willing to face the coming storm"...

I wish I could just reach through this screen and hug you dear one. Last night I swore I could hear you all the way here in NY, when it was announced Obama would be president. I cried for you, for me, for all of us and the hope we could now claim for ourselves.

Truly a surmountable day to smile and be alive. Your in my thoughts dear one. (Hugs)Indigo

Marie said...

I have to say Sheria, that Obama would not have been my choice, not because of his colour or for any other reason except for some of his policies, however I could not help but be moved to tears by seeing the joy on the faces of so many Black Americans on my television yesterday. It is indeed a great day in history and long overdue. Perhaps now finally the stings of slavery and past injustices done can be laid to rest. I would like to share a quote with you:

"Barack Obama was not my choice, but he is my president. That is true of all Americans. For the last eight years, there has been an ongoing campaign of destruction meant to handicap and hobble the last president. I refuse to be part of an effort to do the same to the next president. Those who didn't vote for Barack Obama must set a higher standard of civility and citizenship than those who didn't vote for George W. Bush. In defeat, there must still be nobility.The last eight years have taught us what happens when you set out to destroy a presidency for political gain. You help your candidate, but you hurt your country. That pattern must not be followed with this new president. America must treat Barack Obama better than he treated George W. Bush." Bob Lonsberry

I am not an American and probably should not have an opinion on any of this. I do believe however that since he is the most influential and powerful man in the world what he does can and will have a far reaching impact on even those of who do not live in America. I hope America remains "One Nation Under God."

Cathy said...

I 1st heard "Sweet Honey" in the 80s and thought their name was so cool lol but their harmonies and ethnic courage even better. As for our PE I'm not sure about this "elation" now because I know in my heart many people would NOT feel it were Obama a short, fat Chinese-American. We have to stop referring to this man's ethnicity as if it meant nothing and also stop proclaiming it didn't affect our vote. It'll certainly affect foreign policy, can anyone argue that? If we're honest, we know Colin Powell got teary eyed because Obama is black. I thought he was just another American - worse, a politician. I don't like or trust politicians who by nature must be excellent liars and able to pander to rich lobbyists. But he earned his chance, he paid for it and he'll get it. We shouldn't expect kept promises though, the man won't have time to think of change with the mess our moronic outgoing idiot left. Truly I want our country to prosper, and I know the president is only a figurehead, his personal power is very limited, and yes I also know this is historic but only because it hasn't happened SOONER. Anyone expecting to see a "dream" realized should take a closer look at our national debt and the very real chance of a depression. This 2-party system has failed, true democracy has never been seen in this country, and I can only hope generations of evolved thinking will one day abolish anything that stands in the way of "WE THE PEOPLE". Thanks for letting me have my 2 cents worth, Sheria.

~Rebecca Anne~ said...

When President Elect Obama walked out to give his acceptance speech I was over come with such an emotion I cannot put words to it. Next thing I knew, tears where streaming down my face. His words, his voice, his dream is something to believe in, and I imagined as he spoke, millions of people were soaring the skies with each word. The audacity of hopes and dreams is a reality now. The way it should be. To my vote, to your vote, to everyone with voted, well done.........we did it! said...

Hey there!! {waves}

I am driving through the blogosphere and checking out all of the interesting dialogue about this remarkable time in our nation's history.

America is redefining itself to the world and ALL of us can be part of the process of redefinition - by altering who we are and altering how we define "United States".

Please feel welcome to drop by my blog and share your reactions on my newest post! I'd love to hear more opinions!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Rhonda said...

I found your site on a visit to Alan. I so much enjoyed reading the engagement between the two of you that I had to surf over and find out more about you. I'm so glad that I did find your site, as I honestly feel I may learn a thing or two from you. Forgive me, as my writing is not nearly as eloquent as yours or many of those who seem to visit your site, but I want to say just a couple of things here, if I may. First, thank you for sharing that speach..I had not ever read that part of it and it is profound. As I was born in 1965 I have no recollection of the times, but as I was reading one of your posts to Alan and you were describing some of what you had to endure, I welled up with tears. There was a comment in which you mentioned, things should not change merely because it makes whites uncomfortable. (something to that effect) But, as a blonde haired, blue eyed white girl I can tell you that it does not make me uncomfortable...It makes me ashamed, it's embarrasing and shameful. Though I personally, was not a part of it, there is still shame and in some ways this makes it more difficult to discuss. After all, what do you say? I'm sorry? That seems so stupid doesn't it? For what it is worth Sheria...I am sorry. Thank you for sharing.

aims said...

As always, you wrote beautifully from your heart. - "We still have our walls that divide us and we have to learn to listen to each other, and to respect each other." -- So true Sheria. That is the key. More than anything, I am praying for a deep healing in our nation. In my heart of hearts I know it can be done with a lot of hard work, unity and prayer.

gina said...

sheria, i am truly happy that a huge racial barrier has been broken in america, and any child can say and believe it possible that they can accomplish and become anything they want...that dream can be reality and it's wonderful! yes, i know that all racial walls haven't come down, but, oh, what a big step! though mr. obama wasn't my candidate of choice, largely due to his voting record regarding partial birth abortion and infant life, he is now my president, and i will support and pray for him on a regular basis. God bless you, my friend.