Tomorrow is, obviously, Inauguration Day and that’s always a big deal. The transition of power from one government to another in this country is of a kind not often seen in other countries. That’s the nice thing about a democracy; the outgoing administration generally goes peacefully and, probably, happily. President Bush has been especially accommodating during this transition, giving Obama the respect he deserves and the help he needs. But this transition is a little different from all the others in the past.
It’s more than just a transition from Republican to Democrat, one administration to another. It is a transition from the Baby Boomer generation, the group which came of age and solidified its mentalities during the Vietnam War, to a new generation, that which does not recognize the prejudices that were so apparent in past decades. It is not an “us-v.-them” mentality, it is an “us-and-them-are-all-us” mentality. It is a transition into a time of lessened racism, of a man with the same color skin as those who used to be bought and sold as property now leading the country. It is both the realization of part of Dr. King’s dream and the furthering of another part.
We often dont hear about the last two or three years of Dr. King’s life. We all know about the Civil Rights movement he led, but towards the end of his life he began to move outside of that. He began to speak out against the Vietnam War, which made a lot more people uncomfortable, and began to see his mission as one focused on ending poverty. He was trying to create a Poor People’s Army which would march and camp out on Washington and was working on a sermon called “Why America May Go to Hell” when he was shot and killed in Memphis.
And while Obama is a realization of King’s civil rights work, I think he is in a position to begin to bring about the realization of King’s work on poverty. It’s well known, whether you think his “socialist” policies are good or bad, that Obama wants to work hard to end poverty. He seems to realize the struggle those under the poverty line are living with. He seems to realize that people of every race are poor and need our help. He seems to realize that the war in Iraq is this era’s Vietnam War, and is something he can end. He seems to understand his responsibility to be the best of America, and never the worst. Surely he senses the mantle he has taken up, that of the new voice of Dr. King’s later work.
And that’s why tomorrow is even more special. While we are watching the realization of one Dream, we may be seeing the beginning of the realization of another.