In the 1960’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made us look at ourselves. He gave us no choice. He gathered a following, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and made us look at who we really were. He told us that if we did not like what we saw that, rather than looking away, we must change what we saw. We must change who we had become. We must become better.
Never in my life had I been more proud of my nation than when that nation embarked on a journey of reconciliation that was the response to Dr. King’s challenge. Forty years later the destination has not yet been reached, is barely even within sight. The pace of the journey has slowed.
About a year ago Barack Obama began to build a candidacy that was based on making the American people take charge of their own lives, take control of their own government. “This is not about me,” he would say, “this is about you. Change does not happen from the top down, change happens from the bottom up. You will change the way government works and I will lead you in that effort.”
McCain and Clinton continue the politics of fear, of making us afraid so that they can promise to keep us safe. Obama makes us look at the fact that we are afraid. We don’t want to see that. We want to be kept safe, but we want to do that without admitting that we are afraid. Obama makes us admit our fear. He challenges us to look at ourselves.
When Obama addressed the race issue yesterday he talked about his grandmother, and I had tears in my eyes because he was talking about my grandmother as well. She was a product of her generation and of the Deep South where she grew up. I loved her deeply and would never renounce or reject her no matter how much I rejected the racist beliefs that she held. He was not talking about himself, he was speaking to make America look into its own soul.
Those who are choosing Obama are the people, for the most part, who are willing to look at ourselves and to resolve, “We must be better than this.”
“If you are ready to make change happen…” Obama says.
This is the leadership that has been missing from America for too long.