This morning, as I was watching CNN's airing of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech from 1963, I think it truly hit me. It really started to sink in, what a phenomenal moment we're living. At the time of that speech, places in our country bore signs that read "Whites Only." It's unbelievable to me that only a few decades ago, people weren't allowed to eat in the same restaurants or drink from the same drinking fountains. This same country that spouts claims of liberty and justice for all and all men created equal treated people as property, stripped them of rights and dignity, yanked them from their homeland and sold them like cattle, branding them and beating them and carrying on about their way, building a nation founded on human rights -- but only if you were of the white, male, landowning variety.
The times when I allow myself to remember this, to truly realize what it means to be a white American, I want to hang my head in shame. I want to flush with embarrassment. I want to fall to my knees and plead for forgiveness. What a bleak, evil mark on our history.
I think it's important that we do remember this ugly past, and to acknowledge that for some people, the nasty sentiments of a sordid time still bubble just beneath the surface. Some still struggle for equality despite the advancements; despite Rosa Parks, everything's not rosy after all.
Barack is not a messiah. He is not a prophet or a savior. He is one man. A brilliant, intelligent, witty, compassionate, fiery, inspiring, devoted, honorable man, who inherits a Samsonite warehouse full of baggage -- a failing economy, a nauseating war, a significant loss of respect worldwide, continuing crises in Israel and the Middle East. He also inherits the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. Having proven that, indeed, we can be a people judged not on the color of our skin but the content of our character, now Barack must lead us ahead into even greater discoveries and milestones. The dreams continue and grow, as will we as a nation.
I think it is most important to remember that having President Obama put his hand in the air and swear an oath tomorrow won't magically right every wrong. Everything won't be suddenly sunshine and roses. Much work must be done and, I say again, he is one man. It will take the might of many millions to make the change we called for in the campaign. Savor tomorrow's triumph, then treasure this opportunity to be part of the progress. Be part of the solution. Say you want to make a difference -- and mean it.
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. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.