One of the most profound speeches in the 232-year history of the United States of America was delivered 45 years ago by civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose vision for this nation has proven over time to be much more than a “dream,” but rather a prophecy. Dr. King – championing the cause of not just black Americans but all Americans hoping for equality – stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963 and told some 250,000 people on hand that he foresaw a day in which people would be judged on character rather than pigmentation. He foresaw a day in which the segregationist Jim Crow way of life and its influences would give way to racial, ethnic and economic equality. He saw a day in which anyone living in this country could have a piece of the American pie, and that it wasn’t reserved “for whites only.” And he saw a day in which the people of this nation – the masses – would come together as one to build on the foundation for freedom laid down by this country’s forefathers. What Dr. King prophesied nearly 50 years ago was “change.”
That is what the January 20, 2009 inauguration of Mr. Barack Obama, this nation’s 44th president, has meant to me. His inauguration is symbolic of the beginning of a new era. It’s the commencement exercise for change. It’s meant that we, the American people, are looking past the issue of race and are focusing on what we believe is our best chance to see significant changes in the matters that are of utmost importance to us, including access to affordable health care , quality education for our children, home ownership, and tax relief.
Dr. King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” President Obama’s road to the White House included both “challenge” and “controversy.” But in the end, he used his wisdom to ease concerns or erase any doubt that he was a legitimate agent for change.
Now, change won’t come overnight. And we shouldn’t hold unrealistic expectations, such as looking to see all that ails America totally alleviated. But judging by the content of President Obama’s character, and how he’s already handled difficult times, it’s a safe bet to believe that he is a bridge-builder, and that he is surrounding himself with top-notch aides who will help him be the best commander in chief of this great country that he can possibly be.
The other thing that has made this inauguration so special to me, personally, is that it truly is reflective of the fact that we can be whatever we set our minds and our hearts to be. For so long, as African Americans, we’ve held on to the idea that we could be whatever we wanted, as long as we believed in ourselves.
But the reality is that we’ve long seen images of ourselves in the law profession, we’ve seen ourselves practicing medicine, we’ve seen ourselves as professional athletes and as entertainers. The one thing, though, that has up to this point escaped us is the idea that we could actually – some day in this lifetime – be president of the United States.
Yeah, we’ve seen ourselves as members of the president’s cabinet, as part of the president’s security detail, and serving in other capacities close to the presidency. But Jan. 20 highlighted a monumental moment because in my lifetime, I finally got to see someone who looks like me – an African American – officially become the most powerful man in the world, as the president of the United States is so affectionately known as.
And as we – as a nation – gathered to see history continue to unfold, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. And to know that I voted for the Obama ticket brings joy to my heart.
History is being written and it’s being played out before my very eyes. And it’s one of the best feelings in the world, just knowing that I directly played such a pivotal role in making that happen. And I did it with my vote.
To see President Obama address the nation for the first time as head of the greatest nation in the world was an awesome feeling. It was such a fitting result of what Dr. King – and so many others before and after him – fought for. He said nearly 50 years ago, “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” And he was right.
We, as a people – as a nation – are now truly able to eat the fruit of the land, a land flowing with milk and honey: The Promised Land.
Congratulations, President Obama. Congratulations, America!