On the surface it seems that Barack Obama’s address today commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is properly fitting. After all, Obama is the country’s first African-American president, a position that seemed far out of reach for black Americans when King uttered his powerful lines from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. King’s dream of a society where character took preeminence over skin color and in which people embraced one another in brotherly love, has come to fruition for the vast majority of Americans of myriad racial and ethnic backgrounds who work, study, and play together. The power of King’s words on that fateful day were not selfish; rather, they asked us to consider broader, loftier notions of peace, equality, and friendship. And while the focus of the time was on the racial strife across the land, his speech was not merely about race. Instead, King transcended race by reaching deep within us all and evoking the spirit of the very best elements of our nature that connect us as members of a human family.
Today’s moment should be made for history, one man fulfilling a dream that another envisioned, a dedication to the broader significance of American progress. However, today President Barack Obama will deliver an address that is likely to be much less loftier, and much more self-centered than that of Dr. King. We can make this assumption based on the fact that Obama cannot seem to refrain from self-aggrandizement when speaking to the masses. He will not so much as carry the torch of hope for King but will bask in its glow for his own self-elevation. In his 1963 address, King said “In a sense we have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great 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 to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” One might think that the first black president would be able to announce that we’ve made good on that check; instead, Barack Obama has broken the bank in terms of the utter despair and hopelessness that he has generated in the African-American community.
Despite the intense racial tension of the early 1960’s, and the limited opportunities for black Americans at that time, King was able to offer hope and change that was palpable. King did not take advantage of the platform to cast aspersions on white folks or encourage his followers to seek revenge for past transgressions. He asked us to look inside to find the best in ourselves and to remember the past while keeping an auspicious eye on the future. Today, Barack Obama cannot point to a better future. He is not merely a messenger, like King, but is the architect of the America in which we all live. King said, “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow. I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” How can Barack Obama tell today’s audience to go back home with hope when he and his party are largely to blame for the rotting of the black family, the pervasiveness of unemployment and poverty, and the broken spirit of a disillusioned people?
Unlike King, who believed in America’s founding principles, Barack Obama despises everything about the American founding. Unlike King, Barack Obama doesn’t believe in the American dream. Therefore, one wonders how he can entice others to believe otherwise. How can a president who has done everything in his power to inhibit the pursuit of happiness and liberty stand on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and give others hope that they can attain the impossible? King held up the Declaration of Independence as document whose ideals are good, but to what will Barack Obama point as inspiration for his message other than his own failed, destructive policies? He certainly cannot point to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King would be aghast at the destruction of the black family, the crime and violence, and the dependence of African-Americans on the Democrat Party. In the end, today’s speech will be more about Obama and his dream of a new nation, an America where individual pursuit of happiness is suppressed and despised, than about reconnecting with the spirit of King’s momentous words.