National Commentary

King’s Lesson for Obama

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall was uplifting and inspiring. It wasn’t because he was black, but because of what he did for all of mankind. He was a leader for justice in all things – not just for civil rights.

I watched the loving tribute and heard the call for a better society, pointing to the current problems that are being ignored by both political parties, but especially by the Republican contenders for the presidency.

President Barack Obama has compromised and caved too much, which has clouded his integrity. He is a good man who bows when he should stand firm for what is right.

Even after King won the Nobel Peace Prize, he did not rest on his laurels. King knew there was so much more to be done for the cause of justice. As much as his associates felt they had one cause, King looked at U.S. foreign policy and joined the multitudes, especially those struggling against the Vietnam War, a struggle initiated by young men and women who took up the violent struggle against the “no-win” war.

The war led to the electrifying announcement by President Lyndon B. Johnson, at the end of a speech about the Vietnam War, that he would not seek reelection. Johnson was followed by President Richard Nixon, who during his 1968 political campaign, promised to end the War. By the end of Nixon’s presidency, we were still bombing the hell out of Hanoi. In the end we left Vietnam, clinging to helicopters from rooftops, fleeing the inevitable victory of the Hanoi forces.
Now we are friends. This is something to contemplate, considering the great financial and human cost of war.

Many of King’s followers were true believers in the civil rights movement’s nonviolent wars, but felt he should have stuck to his one direct impeccable cause. King felt he lead a bigger cause.

I remember the day of the Martin Luther King march on Washington. President John F. Kennedy invited King to the White House for a reception, and Kennedy greeted him with the now-famous line, “I have a dream.” King never sought, nor was elected to, high office. But his greatness is now an ideal for eternal vigilance to the ills of today.

We need a widespread revolt against the lack of jobs, the foreclosure of homes, and the prominence of greed. The Wall Street Occupiers have already started a good fight.

Obama is in a fix. He has not used his well-known oratorical skills – skills that his big moment called for – to inspire, nor has he been much of a man of action. He has disappointed many in the vast amount of his previous fans.

The Washington Post quoted Pat Harris, who danced on the grass at the Mall in a purple sweat suit to Stevie Wonder music, during the festivities for the monument. She grew up in a small town, among poverty and segregation. Speaking of Obama, Harris said, “We like him, we just wish he would fight harder.”

I recall when Johnson signed the Medicare Bill in 1965, in Independence, Missouri, at former President Harry S. Truman’s desk, with a smiling Truman standing by. Truman had first proposed universal health care for all. Max Frankel, the New York Times correspondent, told Johnson, “My mother thanks you.”

Johnson turned to Frankel and said, “You should thank me. Many of the burdens of the elderly ill would fall on the next generation.”

Andrew Young, a big contributor to the civil rights movement and former Mayor of Atlanta noted, “They changed the game on us … we won the battle of the civil rights … now it’s economics that control the politics.”

People power cannot be denied. Obama has much to live up to, especially the great expectations of a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize prematurely, and has not lived up to the hopes of the world for peace and democracy.

Time is running out, Obama, for your promise of true peace that should end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Try to show you are worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, as was King and so many before you.