“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
On Martin Luther King’s Birthday our first Afro-American President will step to the podium to deliver his second inaugural address. A few iconic speeches: Jefferson’s political lesson that we could follow today, “We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” Lincoln’s “With malice towards none and charity for all,” to Roosevelt’s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and Kennedy’s, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” and the duds, William Henry Harrison in 1841,” Clocking in at over 8,000(!) words, the speech took Harrison almost two hours to deliver. That he did so without a coat or hat in freezing weather was an even bigger mistake. He contracted pneumonia and died 30 days later.” Watch snippets of addresses here.
The election of a black president does not mean we have overcome racism, far from it. Much of the antipathy towards Obama, from the “birthers,” to the “plotters” comes down to race. It is beyond impolitic to make a racist comment in public, it has sunk a number of white politicians, and it is not so uncommon in private spaces.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, our third president, seems to represent all that we admire about our nation. Rumors that he fathered children by a teenage slave, Sally Hemmings, emerged as early as 1802. The leading historians of the nation not only rejected the notion that their Jefferson could have a sexual liaison with a black woman, they demeaned the very suggestion, and to them Jefferson opposed slavery. A 1944 edition of Jefferson papers quotes a famous letter (Jefferson saved 25,000 letters he received and copies of the 18,000 letters he wrote) in which Jefferson appears to oppose slavery. Remarkably the authors fail to include a part of the letter in which Jefferson advises a young admirer not free his slaves,
Jefferson counseled his neighbor against manumission because “slaves; of this color we know were as incapable as children of taking care of themselves” Emancipated slaves were “pests in society by their idleness, and other depredations to which this leads them.” Jefferson further feared their ‘amalgamation with other color.”
Jefferson, the iconic Jefferson was a racist, not only by our standards, but by the standards of his era. Washington, Adams, Hamilton and a full range of our founders opposed the pernicious institution in act and deed.
The New York City Mayor and police commissioner strongly support a “stop and frisk” policy. Talk to any black male and they will relate their story. One story: three black males, with degrees from elite colleges and excellent jobs walking down a street in an upper income white neighborhood in which they live, are stopped police officers, told to “take the position,” searched, asked for IDs, a crowd gathers, the police check IDs on the computer, thirty minutes later released, without any apology. This is not uncommon – it is part of the day-to-day life in New York.
The elites who fund foundations, Gates, Broad, Walton and many others drive policies for Afro-American inner city communities – policies that close schools and ignore the communities.
Jeffersonian opinions, after all, can “these people” make decisions for their communities?
Schools and school district leaders are primarily white (exception: Chicago), and in too many instances demean communities of color.
Eva Moscowitz, the extremely well paid leader of the charter school network exchanges hundreds of emails with Chancellor Joel Klein – parents in schools of color are pushed aside for charter schools. At the same time a GED program in East New York with years of rescuing teens is defunded, their sin: lack of political clout.
Martin Luther King told us,
“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?
There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Condolezza Rice, who just joined CBS opines that education is our most serious defense issue, I agree.
The Race to the Common Core and national testing, teacher evaluation, No Child Left Behind and the range of federal programs will not create more jobs or build better housing or reduce crime or reduce asthma or provide regular health care; wearing a “no excuses” button is not an excuse.
The tragedy in Newtown Connecticut is horrendous, on the mean streets of inner cities from Chicago to Oakland gun violence is a daily tragedy.
Teachers make a difference each and every day, for too many youngsters school is a safe haven, a source of warmth and food, and love – an alternate home – and the teacher the alternate parent.
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural in March of 1865, only a month before his assassination was only 701 words long, yet stirring,
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-men’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
I await President Obama’s address and hope the passion and eloquence of Lincoln is passed along.
UPDATE: Transcript of President Obama’s Inaugural Address: http://www.dailynews.com/politics-national/?third_party=obamas-inaugural-speech-transcript