Last weekend the 2013 Inauguration for President Barack Obama was held. It was an amazing historical moment and it coincided with Martin Luther King Jr Day. It was poignant to watch President Obama give a strong inaugural speech, quite a few points made resonated with me.
“We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.” I strongly believe there is no question that this is a true statement. As a black woman, however, I recognize the underscore. Today, a black man can be president and I can be a physician, but for every advance we make as individuals, we all have to recognize that this statement still has a place in an inaugural speech and is a reminder of how far we still have to come. The very present issue of discrimination and racism, an overall lack of tolerance for our differences overshadowed many of the trials and tribulations that the President endured during his first term.
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”
The civil rights movement was over 40 years ago. Those that came before us fought honorably for the most basic rights; from sitting anywhere on a bus, to sitting at a diner counter to be served, to demanding the right to vote. While a black man, as President of the United States is testimony to the movement, the discrimination of gays, women, and minorities is still prevalent and pervasive without an organized movement to demand change. How fortuitous that President Obama was able to give this speech on Martin Luther King Day. For all that has been overcome, the fight for equality continues. I have to wonder what Dr. King’s perceptions of today’s accomplishments and ‘new areas of intolerance’ would be?
I was thrilled to hear a speech that was all encompassing and embracing of diversity, one that essentially called a spade a spade, and I’m not sure any other president could’ve given that speech. I just pray that it has an impact. Forty years later, Dr. Martin Luther King’s I have a dream still has a profound affect on me and reminds me of my place in the struggle. Perhaps this reminder will reignite the passion to push forward these changes so that it is no longer necessary to remind America that we are all created equal.