Before I get started on President Obama’s speech at the 50th anniversary event for the March on Washington, allow me to partially silence the Obama Choir Section by dealing with the two former Presidents who also spoke on that day.
For starters, I suspect President James Earl Carter’s dreams are not compatible with mine since I can’t seem to forget how his administration published a report in 1980 that concluded the year 2000 would see more people on the planet than there are available resources to take care of them, and then suggested worldwide population control as one of the fixes (here, here, here, and here).
Next, I’m not feeling President Bill Clinton for signing a bill that enabled the massive growth of the prison industry. His “Ending welfare as we know it” ideas did nothing to reduce poverty and his actions may have made matters worse.
Let’s proceed to Obama, whose speech reminded me of a charismatic but disengaged pastor who brings no-fail excitement to his congregation when he steps to the mic each Sunday, and while his congregation feels empowered and invincible at that moment, they lack the roadmap and a proper understanding of their respective roles to translate their power into desired outcomes.
No need for disappointment. There’s always next Sunday’s dose of words…
All is not lost. President Obama’s remaining 1,237 days in office puts him in a unique position from his predecessors since he has still has the power of the Presidency to realize Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream.
In more practical terms, President Obama can give us something more valuable than a dynamic speech — how about proposing some policies??
There are members of the congregation who will resist any set of policy initiatives that reduce the disparities in education, poverty, wealth, incarceration, health outcomes, employment, housing and wages. The resistance will likely be hostile and entrenched.
But there will also be members of the congregation who strongly desire for MLK’s dream to become reality, and they want to know what is needed from them to support, propose and defend a new policy framework. These same members must look to each other to create the institutions, social bonds, economic foundation and political activism necessary to compliment and evolve new policies. It’s almost needless to say the work to be performed is a seven-days per week responsibility.
I don’t expect a magical pen to eradicate the numerous social wrongs over the next three years. But starting the process of creating new policies today is an important first step.
Let’s get started, Mr. President. Let me know how I can help…
song currently stuck in my head: “book’s bossa” – donald bryd