Alexander Averin

Wednesday 5 November 2008

President Barack Obama

Dear Diary,

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Martin Luther King

(for full speech see Footmote below)

Politics aside, whatever your personal views, a 47-year old Afro-American, a great orator, a visionary and a poet has been elected as President of the USA.

Today is an historic day, a victory for democracy. A day I am proud to see. Would that we had politicians who could be so inspirational. Is there anyone in the UK that you would stand in line for four hours to vote for? I think not.

I celebrate this day.

I also celebrate with my friends across the pond the demise of George Bush’s rule, a man who has blighted our lives and damaged our world. I am deeply ashamed of the things he has instigated in my name.

M switched on the radio during the night; we enjoyed a cup of tea and listened for an hour before going back to sleep. The results were looking hopeful then for Obama but were still not yet certain. I listened to Erica Jong as she spoke slowly and wisely and she called Bush and his entourage ‘morons‘.

Barack Obama has an awareness that has been lacking, an intelligence, a creativity, a broadness of mind and view.

At 7 am the clock radio woke us again and we heard a recording of Obama’s voice giving his acceptance speech in what was described as a voice ‘rough-edged with tiredness’. It sounded good to me.

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, the irony of the date is not lost on me. If we have an effigy to burn let it be for the death of all the ‘bad’ that has gone by and may a New World arise, like the proverbial Phoenix, from the ashes.

And forgive me if I slip in what I have always seen before as a sickly sweet cliché

God Bless America.

Bye for now,

PS. This is a transcript of Martin Luther’s speech. It is long but it is worth a read, when you can spare the time, on this historic day.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Martin Luther King

Footnote, taken from the Observer March 2008.

King had arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike by public sanitary workers. He led a series of protests. The aim was that they should be peaceful, although some were marred by violence. On 3 April, 1968, the day before his assassination, he delivered his famous 'I have seen the mountain top' speech in Memphis. Many people have since claimed the words seemed to eerily predict his death, as King warned: 'I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.'

King was felled by a single bullet as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, just outside his room. His last words were to some supporters in the car park below, when King called out to one of them to make sure he played the spiritual 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' at a church meeting planned for that evening.

A white escaped convict called James Earl Ray was arrested at London's Heathrow airport two months after King was killed. Ray pleaded guilty to avoid a trial and a possible death sentence. Later, he protested his innocence and claimed that King had been killed as part of a government and mafia conspiracy. Prominent members of the King family have supported that idea, as have civil rights leaders such as the Rev Jesse Jackson. Ray died in jail in 1998.


Pipany said...

As eloquent and wonderful as ever Cait, and I agree with every word. I hope with all my heart that Obama lives up to our dreams of what could be xx

Edward said...

Well said! Did you hear Obama's acceptance speech? Even I, a grizzled cynic of many moons, had a lump in my throat (though it could have been the last bite of teacake).

Tim Atkinson said...

Great stuff! (And the MLK speech is even better in the archive recordings of him delivering it - the Guardian did a CD of it a while ago.)

Fennie said...

Well done, Cait. Splendid blog and thanks for the Martin Luther King Speech which I had never read before.
Quite magnificent.

Woozle1967 said...

Cait, you never fail! Wonderful, as

FairSailor said...

Cait that was just wonderful and has warmed my heart! I've also never read the entire speech so this was a special treat to top a very special day for me. For all of us.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I utterly agree and loved the chance to read MLK again. What a day eh!

Milla said...

we need some good news and whatever this change turns out to bring, it seems that hope is a big feeling in the ether.

Kitty said...

Doesn't it feel momentous? I too had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat listening to his speech. Let's hope he lives up to everyone's expectations - I really feel he could change things for the better.

Tess Kincaid said...

"Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."

President-Elect, Barack Obama

I am bursting with American pride!!!! :D

Honesty said...

I am so pleased too- lets hope he lives up to his own, and our, expectations.

Kim said...

Cait, I am once again proud to be American. It has been a long time.

Faith said...

Indeed God Bless America, and all of us. Wish there was someone for Britain like Barack Obama. Excellent blog Cait.

DAB said...

It gives you real hope for change :) TFx

Frances said...

Hello Cait, and thanks for putting up this excellent post.

Yes, this is a very exciting time over here in the States. We have seen something take place that would once have seemed impossible.

I do think that Mr. Obama is an exceptional person, very smart, sensitive, and strong. The breadth of his victory across so many States is spectacular.

Today, we are celebrating, and the celebration will no doubt continue for a while more. However, there is so much facing our new President Elect. I thought that one of the finest parts of his campaign was the notion of getting the rest of us involved. It is this notion that I so hope will be continued as he puts together his administration and begins his term of office.

It is not fair to place all one's dreams on the shoulders of one man, even one exceptional man. It really is up to us to work together to make all our dreams more possible to realize. I think that this mood may be upon us now, and want it to continue.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Thanks so much for your words of congratulations, Cait! America feels like home again, something it certainly has not under these last oppressive and cringe-worthy eight years! Happy, happy day here.

Let Freedom Ring, indeed.


Yes, indeed, Cait - a momentous day for all of us. This news has brought a ray of hope into a world that sometimes seems so full of darkness at the moment. Lovely blog (and great picture, too).


Elizabethd said...

Well said Cait. I do agree with you. And to read MLK's speeches again was wonderful. Thank you.

Pondside said...

Great post, Cait - you've said it all and eloquently. It is momentous.

Helen said...

Hear hear! Well done.

CAMILLA said...

An excellent post Cait, and I agree with your sentiments entirely.

Must admit I did get a tad tearful when Obama was elected, a deeply intelligent man,compassionate and in ethics and has substance. He could go on to make a fortune, he chooses though to take the path of humanity.

Thank you for posting the Martin Luther King Speech, I have read it before, and so wonderful.


Carah Boden said...

Fingers crossed that he delivers. Thanks for the MLK - it truly is an historic moment and you have written about it so beautifully, as always, Cait.

Have also popped a comment on your Ghost Story post which I greatly enjoyed.

And thanks for popping over to me the other day and for your kind comment.

Karen said...

This election has captured a lot of people's attention and imagination - even my own childrens' - which has got to be a good thing. Great post :o)

DJ Kirkby said...

Cait, you always write beautiful posts but this one is espescially lovely.