Martin Luther King Jr. – Two Views
Today, President Trump remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the following Twitter words:
Dr. King’s dream is our dream. It is the American Dream. It’s the promise stitched into the fabric of our Nation, etched into the hearts of our people, and written into the soul of humankind.
The president is right. It is our dream. It is the promise stitched into the fabric of our Nation and etched into the hearts of our people…
However, the president seems to forget another promise, just as solemn and just as noble: The one engraved at the foot of the Statue of Liberty welcoming “your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
The president is also correct when he says that this promise is “written into the soul of humankind.” But for some reason I feel the need to caution that the “soul of humankind” includes the souls from Haiti, Honduras and 54 African nations.
Perhaps Martin Luther King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, felt the same circumspection when he said today:
When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it does…We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.
Finally, “for some reason,” I find the following words by Vice President Joe Biden much more sincere,credible and inspiring:
Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a moment when our country feels hopelessly divided.
But I still have hope. And I’ll tell you why.
Three months before I graduated from law school, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. Riots broke out in cities across America, including my own. Wilmington, Delaware was burning.
The governor, Charles Terry, had called in the National Guard when rock and bottle throwing escalated to sniping, looting, and arson. As a young trial attorney heading in to work each day, I walked by six-foot-tall uniformed soldiers carrying rifles. Apparently, they were there to protect me.
Over in East Wilmington, mothers were terrified their children would make one bad mistake and end up dead. National Guardsmen patrolled their streets with loaded weapons. Curfews were in effect.
Dr. King told us that “true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” And as a young public defender, I remember imagining how we might heal this God-awful situation. How justice might be done. How we could rise out of the ashes — and find a way out together.
Because back then, we were made to believe that we couldn’t.
Forty years later, I found myself standing on a railroad platform in Wilmington, Delaware once again.
It was January 17th, 2009 — a bitter, cold, but glorious day. Thousands of people were in the streets of Wilmington and the parking lots, waiting for the same thing I was.
I was being picked up by a friend, President-Elect Barack Obama, who was about to be sworn in as this nation’s first African American President.
As I stood on that platform and waited, I looked out over my city — the very same part of the city that was in chaos 40 years earlier, when I had imagined and prayed that we might all live together.
That’s what can change in 40 years in this country.
Last year, this country elected a president who plays off our differences for political gain. It often feels as if we retreat behind those differences. But we simply cannot allow them to prevail once again.
Here’s what I believe, Dorian — and I’ll believe it until the day I die: All those differences hardly measure up to the values we hold in common.
I believe we will once again move forward together. But to do that, we must realize what Dr. King realized — that opportunity is the only road to true equality.
This nation cannot be what it’s capable of being until it has offered that opportunity, equally, to all Americans.
May he continue to rest in peace, and inspire us for generations to come.
White House photo