Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I Have a Dream - Does Obama ?

The State visit of Barack Obama to Great Britain has focused our media on him as an individual, in particular there are attempts made to draw comparisons to another black American orator, Martin Luther King.

Today President Obama addressed the British Parliament in Westminster Hall and it is fair to say Mr President, you either have a very good speech writer, are a talented speaker, or both.

The sound bites that will go down in history are probably his opening remarks...

"I have known few greater honours than the opportunity to address the mother of Parliaments at Westminster Hall, I am told that the last three speakers here have been the Pope, Her Majesty the Queen and Nelson Mandela, which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke."

The following could well be the line on every news show and paper for the next 24 hours...

"It is possible for the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great parliament and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British army to stand before you as President of the United States,"

This line stands out on several levels, not least the suggestion that both our countries offer opportunities to its population rather than repressing them.

Will he ever be as remembered though as Martin Luther, only time will tell, but here is a reminder of an August day in 1963. King took to the stand as the last speaker on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. If you listen to the speech most would agree there is nothing amazing about its content for the first 11 minutes or so, in fact he begins to wind up...

"...............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."

At this point by most accounts King left his scripted speech and incorporated thoughts he had shared previously, prompted by the singer Mahalia Jackson who stood nearby shouting  "Tell them about your dream Martin. Tell them about the dream."  The air then becomes electric and he delivers what has been ranked the top American speech of the 20th century

"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"

I guess everyone will have there own opinions, but for me this is an "Inspired" moment in history.
Is President Obama in this league, I don't know but I think the world hopes he is, hence as an English man I sat and watched his inaugural speech live.
Who ever our leaders are, hoping they get a little divine help and inspiration can only be a good thing as heaven knows they need it !


Anonymous said...

It was the speach of all speaches...and still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It came straight from his heart and not from some anonomous speach writer. It was his soul formed into words and he spoke for many who held then and hold now the same dream.

Cathy said...

The difference is that MLK was a preacher, a man of God who was truly trying to peacefully change the world for the good of everyone. President Obama is first and foremost a politician, and so his motivations and goals are a bit more ... complex.

I don't know what British politics are like, but there's not much good to be said for American politics.

ELSID said...

A friend sent me the "I have a Dream" speech when I was serving in Northern Ireland. I'd read it and exchange the words "black/white" for "Protestant/Catholic". So motivating to read.

Did you ever hear that quote by Nelson Mandella? "...Who are you not to be brilliant, beautiful" etc. I had it taped into the front cover of my journal - so powerful.

I'll send it to you if you've never read it. You will enjoy it.

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RJR said...

MybabyJohn - a profound comment from yourself ! I liked your metaphor "his soul formed into words"

Cathy - you have a very valid point of view.

ElSID - I have blogged about "whom am I" before and how its not actually by Nelson Mandella Still very powerfull though. Link here... Deepest Fear

RJR said...

Anonymous.. Sorry to be ignorant but I am not sure what you mean by commerce featured posts ?

Anonymous said...
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Geoff Maritz said...

Hello RJR, Popped in to say Hi. We all live in hope, even the president of the USA. Great post and so refreshing to read. God bless, Geoff.

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