Barack Obama looks promising. Against all odds, he is now the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States. A year back, who had the audacity to think that? I have read “The Audacity of Hope” written by Obama himself. He shares much of his ethics/values in the book and if he carries them out when he becomes President, I think we can all have the audacity to hope for a more just and fair tomorrow.
This word ‘audacity” was used by another prominent black leader, the greatest of them all, so far, – Martin Luther King Jr. King fought for the right of the Negro to vote and today, about 40 years later after he was assassinated, a Negro is running for President. What audacity! Now is a good time to reminisce about King. In his Nobel Prize Speech, King said:-
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept the idea of the “is-ness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is a mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life which surrounds him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nation, can be lifted up from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered man have torn down, other-centered men can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow down before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed and non-violent goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land. I still believe that we shall overcome. This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the City of Freedom. Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood”.
King also said in his “How long” speech:-
We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. That will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man. I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” I come to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.
How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because you reap what you sow
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
And then we have the King’s “I have a dream” speech:-
“I have a dream today!’
I have a dream that one day every valley, shall be exalted, 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 will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith 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.”
King was a prophet when he said:-
“Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.
With the world getting smaller each day, King’s words are magnified many times over.
And what did King say about ‘death’? In his ‘A drum major for righteousness’ speech, King said as follows:-
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator – that something we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.
I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war in question.
I want you to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say, on that day, that I did try in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to serve humanity.
Yes I want you to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have the money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say.
If I can help somebody pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is travelling wrong, then my living would not have been in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, if I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain”.
At the end of his book, Obama wrote:-
“..I think about America and those who built it. The nation’s founders who somehow rose above petty ambitions and narrow calculations to imagine a nation across a continent. And those like Lincoln and King, who ultimately laid down their lives in the service of perfecting the imperfect union. And the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers, tailors and butchers, constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill in the landscape of our collective dreams. In that process I wish to be part of. My heart is filled with love for this country”
Martin Luther King Jr. – truly a great man. The salt of the earth. Like Barack Obama, I have the audacity to hope that good men and women can make a change and will eventually prevail.