Martin Luther King and Barrack Obama

To Dream Like an American

Tonight I sit here proud to be an American. In the recent history of this great nation we have had some difficult times to endure in the last few years.

An innocence was lost on 9/11. I was running out of Pt. Fermin in San Pedro that morning.

Two years earlier I had made a decision to no longer be a victim of fast food, obesity, and laziness. Two years earlier I had made the decision to run a marathon. So sacrifices had to be made. Sloth and fatty food cravings were exchanged for the discipline of running and nutrition.

And while our the world was shocked and terrified over the tragedies of that fateful morning…while the world was waiting for us to take a meaningful symbolic speech and stand on the horrors and immorality of violence…

America took a different stand. America resorted back to its violent roots. America resorted back to it’s days of might makes right…where decisions were made not with the people but at the cost of the people…for the economic gains of the few.

The United States as a nation was built raping and pillaging its way across this beautiful landscape destroying all the native people’s it came across. The United States was built on the backs of African slaves imported for three hundred years. The United States was built on the economic exploitations of poor Europeans indentured by industries that cared little about their workers.

And yet despite these great injustices…Americans of all backgrounds…Americans of all religions…Americans of all origins…would come together to fight for their vision of a better place…a better country…a place safer and more just from where we came. Oh these battles were hard fought and many died in these struggles. The right to vote, the civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation, the eight hour workday, economic opportunities…all these very things we often take for the granted…were fought and sacrificed by many generations before us.

And on those days post 9/11 we had big decisions to make. What kind of America would we be? Would we be the kind of country that used its best minds and resources for war and violence? Or would we be a country that found a way of peace and dialogue…in the Christian tradition…in the tradition of the great leaders like Martin Luther King?

Well America took the brutal route. And whether we thought this war was right or wrong we are deep in that decision now. We have the death of thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians on our hands. We invaded a country without provocation. This has cost us thousands of our finest men and women. We have 150,000 armed forces still in Iraq today.

This war has cost America. It has cost us in lives. It has cost us in wounds both physical and psychological. It has cost us in our reputation as a peace loving nation. No longer does the world believe those precious few words. We are a nation that brought our full force against a small third world nation out of vicious need for revenge and retribution.

This war has cost us a trillion dollars. Billions of dollars that could now be used for building of schools or saving state economies or sending a whole generation to universities to keep the American tradition of scientific innovations and greatness alive.

But instead our schools have now run out of money. Our economy is on the borderline of an economic depression. Major industries that were the very bread and butter of our country are on life support.

And the real tragedy over the last eight years was in our American spirit. We are a country of “can do”…a country of innovation…a country of entrepreneurs…a country that will always find a way…a country where it matters not the color of your skin but what it is you can contribute to the work at hand. There is no country in the world where such diversity works together day by day, hour by hour, in the pursuit of a shared vision of freedom and prosperity and justice.

But instead over the last eight years we’ve had a country of utter cynicism. A country where we actually began to believe we could not change things. A country where we were afraid to speak our minds in fear of a religious retribution or patriotic tongue lashing because you were not behind our leaders.

And when our country falls into this bitter violent apathetic mood of indifference…we must not lose our hope…when our country falls into a rat race where our shared vision is hijacked by fantasies of roman luxuries million dollar investments and million dollar homes and cars that could care less about our the very health of the very environment that gives us life every day…we must not lose our hope.

When we fall into this funk these dark ages of materialism that we are apt to do in this country of such deep and abundant wealth and resources…it is easy to give up our nation’s vision…

We forget about the very moral purpose that has driven the American dream for so long. A dream where there is shared opportunity for all people in this nation. A place where “certain truths were considered as self evident”…a place that was designed to be very different from the shackles of tradition and history that had kept so many us down for so long in our countries of origin.

This life of meaningless materialism is not the the American Dream.

And we have courageous leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to remind us of the real American Dream. That the fight for justice and equality and opportunity is the very heart of the real American Dream. And when he gave that magnificent speech in front echoing the words and cadences of Lincoln’s Gettysburg in front of the Lincoln memorial to the applause of a million Americans who had sacrificed so much to march to Washington…King reminded us again that the real American Dream is so much more than the pursuit of the dollar….King reminded us that the real American dream is not to destroy in the anger of vengence…King reminded us that to dream to build a better kinder more just country is the very essence of what this country is about.

And as long as we trample on the rights and freedoms of a few we do injustice to all Americans.

This dream this vision is repeated in the great speeches through our history. It is in the very basic documents on which this country has made a contract with its citizens…the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

In Chicago, a young man, a man of books and words, who reads Martin Luther King and Ghandi and Emerson and Lincoln rises to the top of his classes and even becomes a professor of our Constitution. This young man, Barrack Obama, believes this American Dream that despite being black that yes he could become President of this great Nation. This young man chooses not to follow the luxuries of material wealth but instead chooses to build social and moral wealth by serving his community and city of Chicago. And like all great men of antiquity, he spends great swaths of his time reading, reflecting, and writing, and envisioning a better America.

So when he speaks at the national stage four years ago at the Democratic National Convention and speaks of ” Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope.

In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; a belief in things not seen; a belief that there are better days ahead.” It resonates deeply with our American Experience.

When he speaks that it is time to “reclaim America’s promise” we know of what he speaks. It is the current that washes under our feet every day in our workplaces, our schools, our churches. And when he stands up there as a black man from the land of Lincoln we know of what he speaks. The echoes of the past are unmistakable.

And when he runs for President reminding us all that yes, we can make a difference. That yes, the impossible is possible in this country. That yes, Martin Luther King Jr. did change the country so that yes he can run for and win the Presidency. Barrack chose to avoid the political trappings of big campaign money and asked American People for help, support, and contributions.

And they did. In record numbers. And he did what many would consider to be impossible. He won the Presidency of the United States.

So when he speaks tomorrow…when he stands on that same spot that Martin Luther King, Jr. did and spoke of a his dream of a country where “children will one day live in a nation where they not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character”.

I hope that he puts forth a new American dream with all the grandeurs and hope and faith and historical significance of Dr. King’s.

And I’ll be watching it with my students at college and talking about America and dreams all day.

And will feel proud to be part of this great nation where such crazy and powerful dreams can come true.

God Bless America.

Gary Dawson Smith


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: