President Barack Hussein Obama and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King fought fought for freedom against a governmental system that controlled people for selfish benefit. Can the same be said of Obama? Photo: Public domain

SAN JOSE, January 21, 2013 – It seems a bit amazing that President Obama’s inaugural celebrations and the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day occur on the same day. Can the overlap be viewed as something like an alignment of the planets? Not quite, but the conjunction of the two celebrations has not been overlooked by the president’s inaugural committee. Obama’s inaugural crew must view this as an incredible opportunity to permanently cement the president’s status to the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is a momentous event, and given Obama’s penchant for theatrical productions, the festivities will be well orchestrated.  No doubt many will be intended to take advantage of the coincidence of the inauguration and the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day occurring on the same day. This is one of the reasons President Obama intends to use a Bible owned by Dr. King when taking the public oath of office. This gesture is intended to honor the memory of Dr. King, but it most definitely benefits Obama to be linked in such a way to the icon of the Civil Rights Movement.

It is fitting that President Obama acknowledges the Civil Rights Movement. As U.S. Rep. John Lewis, former coordinator of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights era, said recently, “If it hadn’t been for Martin Luther King Jr., there would be no Barack Obama as president.”

Essentially, the foundation established through the pain and suffering and the martyrs of those who gave themselves for the civil rights efforts should be remembered by all Americans, but it is especially true for Barack Obama because without the struggle for freedom, there would have been a very minimal foundation for his election as president in 2008, let alone a victory in his re-election.

There is even a perception or sentiment among many people that Barack Obama’s presidency is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s “Dream” that he shared with hundreds of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963. Yet this perspective seems a bit naive. The jury may still be out on that perception. Unfortunately, Dr. King is not around to ask what he meant specifically when he said:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and   tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream…

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with… With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand  up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

The key component to this speech is the American dream of living in freedom. For too long that freedom had been denied black Americans as they suffered in slavery. Then, after slavery was abolished in the United States through the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, there remained the residue from hatred and resentment in the Southern governmental establishments allowing for the restriction and outright prevention of citizens freedoms and civil liberties. This became the reason for the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. King started his speech by referring to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and 2013 is the 150th anniversary  of Lincoln’s presidential order freeing the slaves in the South. The Emancipation was Lincoln’s interpretation and efforts to fulfill the founding father’s dream expressed in the Declaration of Independence. King simply advanced their dream to the next level. The fight of the Civil Rights Movement was all about fulfilling the dream of freedom for all people, regardless of race, or religion, or gender. It is quite important to keep this in perspective.

Tyranny was evident in the oppressive control of British monarchy, and it is why the founding fathers were willing to die for freedom. Most elementary school children can recall Patrick Henry’s famous speech in which he pronounced, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” And slavery was simply tyranny by another name. Lincoln’s dream as expressed in the Gettysburg Address was that “this nation would have a new birth of freedom” through the resolution of the Civil War. What links Americans is the freedoms the citizens enjoy.

The irony is that millions of Americans are really unsure that President Obama is the fulfillment of the dream of American freedom. He certainly was the fulfillment of incredibly successful political machinery and has captured the intense of loyalty of devotees at all levels of society. However, several of his first term efforts have undermined truly deep levels of trust that he is about the freedom for all. As long as you agree with his agenda and are on his side, he seems to have no problem with those freedoms Americans tend to take for granted.

It is more than clear that Dr. King and those that followed him were fighting against an entrenched and unreasonable governmental system that succeeded in controlling one race of people for their own selfish benefit. Those corrupt state governments saw nothing wrong with enacting laws which constantly encroached upon the freedoms of American citizens who should have received equal rights long before the essential amendments to the Constitution eventually guaranteed them.

On the other hand, President Obama will be reseated in his position of authority as the leader of the Free World, yet millions of Americans are concerned that his dream is one of freely mandating unreasonable governmental controls and seriously undermining the very freedoms for which the founding fathers fought and offered their lives. Maybe this will dawn on people who are able to see past the shallow distractions.

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Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member  at West Valley College in California.  He also currently writes a column on history and one on American freedom for the Communities at the Washington Times.


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