FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Promised Land?

by Rev. JESSE L. JACKSON

I remember the hot summer of ’63. I was 22 years old, leading demonstrations in Greensboro, N.C. to open up access to public facilities – restaurants, movie theaters, all those establishments that had been closed to blacks for so long. Because we were disturbing the peace as defined by Jim Crow law, I went to jail.

We filled jails across the South that summer, but our enthusiasm was building toward something bigger. Late in August, all roads led to Washington for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I asked my football coach if I could miss a few days of practice because I knew I had to be there.

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaimed his dream of equality for our nation. He stood in the shadow of President Lincoln, the original emancipator, and dreamed of a day when a man would be judged by his character, not the color of his skin; a day when America would finally fulfill her broken promise of equality and freedom to all her citizens. The size of the crowd and the spirit of the moment were overwhelming. Dr. King did not disappoint.

Now, on the 45th anniversary of this historic speech, Barack Obama will take a monumental step toward fulfilling the Dream and mending the broken promise when he accepts the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. I have the same feeling now that I had standing in that crowd 45 years ago, listening to those words of challenge and inspiration from Dr. King.

Barack brings hope. Barack brings the promise of change. He brings a broad vision for making America better. He is smart, capable, a man of integrity. He is a proven fighter for what is right, with a message of reconciliation and peace. He has the support of an intelligent and accomplished wife, Michelle. His nomination is a transformative moment in American history, an indication that the Dream can be realized and the promise fulfilled.

In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and others fought to have black delegates from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party seated with the all-white Mississippi delegation at the Democratic convention. It was an effort to introduce broader representation into the party and was initially rejected. The party tried to protect the old order, but the new order would not be denied and a compromise was reached. In 2008, at the convention, we will witness an African American accepting the party’s nomination. America has changed. America has become better. During the long primary season, we witnessed vivid signs of this change. Men across the country cast their votes for a woman. Whites supported a black candidate in massive numbers. It is a different, better America.

But America is at a turning point. We continue to pursue a war that is producing needless deaths, draining us of our financial resources and robbing us of our moral authority. Our national infrastructure crumbles – levees in New Orleans, a bridge in Minnesota – and we fail to make the investment necessary to fix it. We are failing our youth and jeopardizing our future greatness by letting our educational system deteriorate and responding by expanding our prison system: second-class schools, first-class jails.

We need the leadership Barack will bring. However, the burden of fulfilling the Dream, mending the broken promise, falls on all of us. I recall the story of a meeting that labor leader A. Philip Randolph had with President Franklin Roosevelt regarding a long list of discriminatory practices blacks were facing in society and the workplace. He clearly presented the case to the president, who listened carefully and responded. Roosevelt said: “I can’t just give you the rights you seek. I wish I could. I agree with everything you’ve said to me. Now go out and make me do it.” Barack will set the tone. He will provide the vision and inspiration to move forward. But it is up to us to do the work, to demand the change that must come if the Dream is to be fulfilled. We must make it happen.

Positive activism has always been the key component in the creative tension that leads to change. The tools are ours – demonstration, legislation, litigation – and each has a place in the work of building a just, equitable society. It is the effort of committed citizens engaging in positive activism that helps make a president great.

So, even now, we must continue to act. We can end this war, bring our people home and reinvest in America. We can commit to rebuilding our infrastructure, creating thousands of well-paying jobs in the process. We can build first-rate schools and end the procession of our young into the clutches of a massive for-profit prison system. We can stop babies from dying and children from going hungry, plants from closing, drugs and guns from flooding into our communities and hardworking, honest families from losing their homes to foreclosure.

Dr. King knew what he was risking when he took the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day, 45 years ago. He knew what he was risking every day that he took the stage, every day that he ventured out to do battle against racism, ignorance, and evil. He often received death threats, but he never let that stand in the way of his holy mission.

As a fellow fighter who stood with Dr. King in the last moments before his death, and as a friend who saw the light fading from his eyes, I feel blessed to know that what will happen the night of Aug. 28, 2008, would make him very proud. But I also know he would tell us that we must not rest in pursuit of the Dream.

Rev. JESSE L. JACKSON Sr. is founder and president of RainbowPUSH Coalition.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail