Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm Starting to Feel It -- Hope

" Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12 ( New Living Translation)

or as it is translated in
(The Message Translation)

"Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick,
but a sudden good break can turn life around."

Among my earliest childhood memories are the images that hung on the wall in my living room. There was a plate with an image of Martin Luther King Jr., a picture of John F. Kennedy and a plaque with "The Lord's Prayer".

One of my first efforts at writing for a pubic audience came when I entered a 4th Grade Essay Contest on, what was then called, "Negro Achievement". My mother was happy when my essay on the achievements of the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall received second honors but, of course, she also reminded me that I should strive to improve. Somewhere around this time, I clipped a picture of Robert Kennedy out of the paper and taped in on my bedroom wall ( I think that he replaced The Green Hornet and Kato ).

I was born at a time of great change, great hope, and great possibility. In 1966, Barbara Jordan became the first African American to the Texas State Senate since 1883. in 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to Congress. So, at a very young age, I learned to set the bar pretty high when evaluating political figures.
Sadly, in 1968, I also learned just how fragile dreams can be and how quickly hopes can be dashed. In May of 1968, many Americans had hopes that Robert F. Kennedy would be President but in November Richard Nixon was elected. I learned just how quickly the political tide can change and just have fickle the American electorate can be.

For forty years, I've witnessed political stars rise and fall, politicians switch parties (and seemingly values), idiotic sex scandals, wars, stolen elections and, the corporate takeover of Washington. I've seen the mainstream political media go from being "The Fourth Estate" to a propaganda tool for their corporate owners. And saddest of all, I've witnessed the American electorate, at times, resemble sheep being placidly led about by shepherds using the staffs of fear-mongering, race-baiting, gender bias, religious intolerance and swift-boating. So when the 2008 presidential primary campaign began I knew that it would take a lot more than eloquent speeches, campaign slogans, rock star crowds, celebrity endorsements or, the promise of gender or racial historical firsts to get me believe that this country could recapture the level of hope that it once felt -- that I once felt.

Don't get me wrong, as a lifelong Democrat, I was proud of all of the candidates who entered the Democratic primary. I was an early supporter of John Edwards but despite my various policy differences with the other candidates I could have voted for almost any of them. ( Sorry, Mike Gravel would have been too much of a stretch). I was excited to see a woman, an African American and a Latino with a viable chance of becoming th 44th President of the United States but until yesterday I was still waiting to feel that the hope that has so long been deferred may finally become a dream fulfilled.

Now, I'm starting to feel it.

The following video is of Barack Obama's speech given
on June 9, 2008 in Raleigh, NC as he kicked off his Change that Works for You tour.

In the following excerpt of an article for RealClearPolitics,
John Avalon outlines what Barack Obama will have to do in order to have a chance at fulfilling the promise that was placed on hold in 1968.

Avalon writes:
"Politics is history in the present tense. And perhaps never more than at this moment.

Barack Obama captured the Democratic nomination almost 40 years to the day after Robert F. Kennedy's assassination the night he won the California primary. RFK died on June 6th, 1968.

And he will accept his party's nomination on another fateful day - the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

This coincidence of the calendar underscores the way in which Obama's candidacy symbolizes a step toward resolution of the shattered dreams of mid-1960s moderate liberalism.

But while Obama's soaring oratory has been exhaustively compared to Martin Luther King's Baptist rhythms, his success in the general election will depend on rebuilding Robert F. Kennedy's brief and almost mythic electoral coalition.

No Democratic candidate since RFK has been able to bridge the left, right and center -inspiring blacks and working class whites, Hispanics and young voters - the same fault lines that that underlay the bitter 2008 nomination fight.

The secret to Kennedy's success was a balance of profile based in his experience. He combined what MLK's sermons referred to as a "tough mind and a tender heart."

As a former mob-busting Attorney General and committed Cold Warrior, Bobby Kennedy reassured voters who wanted the law and order that counter-culture liberals seemed to dismiss. His 1968 stump speech and television ads hammered home this fact, testifying to his experience as "the chief law enforcement officer in the nation."

But as the civil rights enforcer and social reformer New York Senator who turned against the Vietnam War, Bobby Kennedy inspired progressive voters who wanted compassion to be matched with action.

Bridging the differences of the 1960s Democratic Party, aided by the strength of association with his slain brother, RFK was able to avoid being stereotyped as a member of the far-left. His campaign turned into a cause and then a crusade.

And while few future political candidates would attempt to cast themselves as inheritors of MLK's mantle (Jesse Jackson comes to mind), the image of Bobby Kennedy retains its romance when Democrats look in the mirror even 40 years after his death.

George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy and Gary Hart all attempted to carry the RFK torch forward. Bill Clinton claimed Robert F. Kennedy as the first New Democrat, writing, "he believed in civil rights for all and special privileges for none, for giving poor people a hand-up rather than a hand-out: work was better than welfare."

In this 16-month primary campaign, Hillary Clinton tried to repeatedly invoke the aura of RFK, using footage of her fellow New York Senator in advertisements with testimonials from his children.

Obama's campaign proved to be far more worthy of the RFK comparisons.

Among young voters, he has inspired devotion as a symbol of generational change.

Like RFK, Obama succeeded in inspiring voters outside liberal Democratic strongholds, consistently claiming victories among conservative red state Democrats in the deep south, Midwest and northwest - even winning Oregon, which resisted RFK in 1968.

But two groups that Hillary Clinton consistently and increasingly kept from him were older working class whites (incarnations or remnants of the '68 George Wallace vote) and Hispanics. It was RFK-marcher Cesar Chavez who popularized the phrase "si, se puede" - which morphed across the decades into the Obama slogan "yes, we can" - but Latino voters stayed loyal to Hillary in the 2008 primaries.

Obama will need to deepen his appeal among both groups to win the election in November.

As a bridge-builder by biography and self-conception, Obama is well equipped to not only bridge generations but also heal the wounds left by the late 1960s. He can fulfill the promise of Bobby Kennedy's unfinished campaign by building a broad coalition across racial, geographic and political lines. And when he takes the stage in Denver, he can proclaim with some justification that he represents Martin Luther King's American dream, not deferred but finally realized."

The mark was set very high but I'm ready to hope again.

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