America: Finally Catching the Vision
By Cynthia Gross
With the election of President Barack Obama on November 4, 2008, the nation finally realized that change is possible. Crowds of people representing various ethnicities, ages, and social backgrounds united for a common goal: a voice and a renewed purpose in America. Throughout his political campaign, many people compared Barack Obama to the preceding Martin Luther King, Jr., a social activist for equality during the American civil rights movement. Perhaps best known for his "I Have a Dream" speech delivered in 1963, King crystallized the political movement by emphasizing the necessity for a restructuring of the discriminatory laws and biased ideologies created to keep certain groups inferior to others. Although it is easy to focus on the parallels between these iconic figures, it is important to remember that they are different. Everyone is influenced by someone who comes before, and new ideas are simply updated versions of older ones. However, as a minority, President Obama seems to have special significance for underrepresented parties. Reasonably, therefore, it is best to analyze these men based on their connection as forward thinkers.
Both King and Obama speak to minorities and those who attempt to keep these groups inferior. Although King addressed a predominately African American audience because of the racial discrimination in the United States during the mid-1900s, Obama explicitly emphasizes that he represents all minority groups including women, the disabled, the elderly, homosexuals, and the working class. Through their commitment to empowering average people, King and Obama create unity, a kind of movement in which individuals can feel the bond of empathy between themselves and others not only based on the color of their skin but as a part of humanity. As a result, King and Obama become positive role models in which they are examples even in regards to their appearance and family structure. Whenever he gave a speech or represented his people in public, King was professional, well groomed, and appropriately dressed. Likewise, in image and decorum, President Obama, his wife, and daughters exemplify minorities positively.
Furthermore, the juxtaposition of King and Obama shows that their efforts and agendas are for the people instead of primarily for their individual gain. These men persevere through challenges, including others who attempt to undermine their pursuits, in order to reach their goals. Now, minorities in the United States can no longer use the excuse that it cannot be done or that the system holds certain groups back because even if society favors some individuals, minorities can defeat the system if they want to work hard enough. Unfortunately, King's forward thinking efforts for social equality cost him his life when he was assassinated in April 1968 by James Earl Ray while supporting a sanitation workers' strike. Nevertheless, his dream and vision lives on, slowly unveiling itself in a new generation. And, the election of the nation's first African American president, Barack Obama, suggests that Americans are catching the vision.