Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The dream endures.

While the events of yesterday are still fresh in my mind, I thought I should say something about the inauguration of President Barack Obama to oblige a few old friends who are still interested in my political opinions. I'll refrain from any public comment on the particulars of the ceremony or on President Obama's inaugural address. What I would like to say is that the inauguration made me proud to be an American citizen, and on multiple counts. I'm proud that, for the forty-fourth time, we are witnessing a peaceful transfer of power from one presidential administration to another. I'm also proud that, on days like this, we are able to temporarily put aside the rancor and division of partisan politics to celebrate the values that bring us together. I'm proud, too, that a historic racial barrier has fallen. As I wrote in November, I think that the election of our first African-American president ought to be a sign of hope for all who believe that this is a country where they can fulfill their greatest dreams and aspirations.

Some of the more moving comments I've heard regarding yesterday's inauguration come from Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. As a young man, Congressman Lewis played an important role in the civil rights movement as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and as a participant in the March on Washington in 1963 (where, at age twenty-three, he was the youngest speaker in the program that included Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech). Here is some of what John Lewis had to say yesterday:
You know, when I first came to Washington, D.C. the first time in May of 1961 to go on the freedom rides, blacks and whites couldn't board a Greyhound bus and sit together and travel from Virginia through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, into New Orleans without the possibility of being arrested, jailed or beaten.

And we were jailed, we were beaten, we were put in a state penitentiary . . . People could not even register to vote. When we came back here for 1963 for the March on Washington and I was here when Dr. King stood and said, "I have a dream today, a dream deeply rooted in America's dream." And to come back here 45 years later, it is almost too much. It is almost too much.
Later in his remarks, Congressman Lewis expresses the hope that "[w]e're going to be a better people, a better society, and we're going to become one America, one family, one people, the American family." As he concludes, "I see this as a down payment, a major, a significant down payment on the dream of Martin Luther King Jr." I hope and pray that he is right. AMDG.


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