THE DREAM REALIZED
Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.
A reporter asked a young boy wearing a T-shirt adorned with the images of President Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. what they signified. The youngster, without hesitation, said "Dr. King represents the dream, and President Obama represents the reality."
He was much too young to have known anything about the "dreamer," but from television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet, Obama was someone his 12-year-old mind readily grasped and understood. But the T-shirt and the wonderful image of Dr. King was his gateway back to the past to understand the direct connection between the dreamer and the reality he was currently enjoying. And it's unfortunate that Obama hasn't done a very good job of explaining that relationship.
Obama has written two very engrossing books, but other than a brief mention of Dr. King, along with other American legends, there is no extended discussion. In fact, in "Dreams from My Father," he gives more attention to Malcolm X, recalling how valuable the leader's autobiography was to him as he grappled with his color and manhood.
Toward the end of his acceptance speech on August 28 in Denver at Invesco Field, Obama did allude to Dr. King when he spoke of the American promise: "And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream."
For some reason, perhaps for poetic effect, he felt it better not to say Dr. King's name, though he mentioned John Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lincoln. Nor was Dr. King mentioned by name in Obama's victory speech in Chicago on November 4, but once more alluded to when he said while extolling the virtues and longevity of Ann Nixon Cooper, the 106 year-old Black woman: "She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome."
While Obama could quote Lincoln and give him attribution, he chose to lift Dr. King's phrase about the "moral arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice" to fit his own words by remarking, "It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day."
None of this is done to belittle or to impugn Obama, but it is rather curious that on two momentous occasions he chose not to put his victory in context by citing Dr. King's name. Sometimes, particularly for our younger generation, things have to be made explicit, as Malcolm X said, "Make it plain," so they know who Dr. King was, the reality of his dream and the thousands who struggled with him on the ramparts to bring about justice and equality in America.