Happy Birthday, Dr. King!
Dr. Martin Luther King would be 80 years old today (technically January 15). I am not sure that he would have expected to be celebrating President-elect Obama’s inauguration the day after his own national holiday in the year 2009.
It is impossible to chart the impact of the work of Dr. King and the Black Freedom Movement on the election of Barack Obama. What is clear is that powerful organizing efforts -- unlike those used in any other presidential campaign, but very much like the grassroots organizing efforts of the freedom movement -- have brought about great change once again in the United States. As a result, there is a generation of young people that will grow up with grand expectations of what is possible in the United States.
When Barack Obama was campaigning last fall, I had the opportunity to talk with young organizers from Sojourner Truth Academy in North Minneapolis about what it might mean to them to have an African American president. Their response was powerful. They said that they would be excited, but what they really wanted to figure out was how they would elect not just one African American president, but two, three, and four more! They wanted to send a message to their classmates’ parents that it was time to stop letting their kids mess around with Xbox, too much TV, and not enough reading and homework. Those young organizers care about going to college, feeling safe in their communities, and exceeding expectations. And so, we see once again that youth have the excitement and energy to have the vision for a bigger and better change than we adults can come up with.
There remains a great deal of pain and injustice, and the struggle continues. Today, however, I am grateful for our children’s visions for a better tomorrow, our elders’ guiding wisdom, and for Dr. King’s courage to struggle and dream out loud. Happy Birthday, Dr. King!