August 31, 2013 in Opinion

Other voices: Fifty years after King, it’s marching time again

 

This editorial from the San Jose Mercury News does not necessarily represent the views of The Spokesman-Review editorial board.

“They’re marching.”

That’s the phrase that will resonate from the rhetoric of Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, standing on the spot where 50 years ago at the March on Washington Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made “I have a dream” a national mantra.

King’s words, delivered as only a Southern Baptist preacher could, still inspire all who believe in equal rights and opportunity in America. Obama could not match King’s oratory, but he evoked the preacher’s style and delivered a message of hope for those who see how far the nation has come in 50 years – could King have envisioned a black president standing in his place? – and how far it has to go to truly fulfill the dream.

It was a stirring speech, stronger for the fact that along with racial struggles, Obama primarily addressed the economic challenges that were the reason for the original march, and which in some ways have increased for all Americans today, with the gap between rich and poor. Calling out those who see no common purpose in rebuilding the middle class, Obama reaffirmed the power of community, declaring that “the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.”

Conspicuous in their absence Wednesday were Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor declined invitations to speak; former presidents at the dais were Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. As he often does, Clinton called upon his acid wit, lamenting that it shouldn’t be easier to buy an assault weapon in this country than it is to vote.

Obama did not go easy on personal responsibility, however. He stressed it as his final point, praising Americans for pursuing the struggle one by one:

“That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge – she’s marching.

“That successful businessman who doesn’t have to, but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con, who’s down on his luck – he’s marching.

“The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same doors as anybody’s son – she’s marching.

“The father who realizes the most important job he’ll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn’t have a father, especially if he didn’t have a father at home – he’s marching.

“The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again and walk again and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home – they are marching.”

They are indeed.

Let’s march. All of us.


There are six comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email