In a short but powerful speech from the Lincoln Memorial, Barack Obama stood where King had stood and offered a powerful rejoinder to some of those most powerful words King spoke 46 years ago. Where King spoke of a country where his children “will not be not judged by the color of their skin by the content of their character,” Obama spoke of “the true character of our nation” that is “not revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard.”
The shift from the individual to the community is critical and is made, no doubt, in the spirit of King’s belief that we are all bound together into a community in which injustice to one effects justice for all. To summon this spirit of community, on that spot, at this moment is to begin to turn us toward our best selves.
And if you listen, perhaps you can hear King’s rejoinder to Obama’s sober recognition that “There is not doubt our road will be long. That our climb will be steep” — for King said:
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low …
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.
King was right that he would not get to the mountaintop with us, nor are we there yet, but we are closer and with continuing work and encouraging words, ever higher we will climb.