Obama fulfills dream King fought for 46 years ago

Kyle Roerink

The promise in the U.S. Constitution granting the unalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all citizens of the United States was nothing more than a dream in the eyes of the Rev. Martin Luther King on Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial.

Today, Barack Obama, the first black president, will solemnly swear “to support and defend” this same constitution.

The inspiring oratory and unrelenting demeanors of both King and Obama are quite similar. Both men were called upon during times of strife, peril and uncertainty. Both men represent an acceleration of hope, prosperity and dignity. King gave every man a voice in the civil rights movement, and Obama used his voice to bring our country together in an effort to make global change.

The connection between Obama and King, said George Garrison, professor in Pan-African Studies, is the realization that we are all each other’s kin on earth.

“I think Obama is uniquely positioned to bring this global view that Martin Luther King had, that Mohandas Ghandi had: seeing us as one family of rational creatures trying to work out their difficulties, their problems,” Garrison said. “Obama understands . that we are a global village and that we must learn to live together in peace and harmony. I think the message of King, the message of his Christian beliefs, resonates through Obama’s vision of where he wants to take this country.”

Halim El-Dabh, university professor in music, took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and was able to watch King give his “I Have a Dream” speech. Forty-six years later, he has the opportunity to watch Obama be sworn into office.

“You felt like at this particular moment there are no barriers. (Like) we were all one in a way,” El-Dabh said. “It felt like it doesn’t matter what color I am, what color you are or what background you represent. There was an energy holding us together.”

El-Dabh said Obama’s dialogue brings the same energy that King’s did.

“Everytime you see Obama it is something beyond the physical; something full of energy and hope – a daring feeling,” El-Dabh said. “You need somebody daring to make change. I feel like he is not going to be pulled back by some of the things that are heavy, moving slowly.”

During the inauguration party on Saturday, Obama spoke on the same steps where King gave a vision of his famous dream.

“Anything is possible in America,” Obama said in the speech. “Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead, I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States will endure. that it will prevail, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.”

Garrison said the “we can always do better” attitude is a characteristic shared between Obama, King and all Americans.

“It is in the American mindset that we can always do better,” he said. “Dr. King knew that this country could live by its creed . Barack Obama not only thinks that the social problems can be solved, but he is committed to solving them.

“He expects them to be solved . He thinks the problem of ‘how do we live together in peace and harmony in this world?’ can be solved.”

Obama’s background, El-Dabh said, is what the American Constitution embodies because we are all born the same way.

“(King) said I have a dream . It had a resonance in the air, in the world, into the universe,” he said. “Somehow, something is going to catch that resonance. I think Obama woke up resonating to that resonance, embodying the resonance of ‘I have a dream.'”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].