Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Speech That Should Have Been Given During The March On Washington

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Martin Luther King, Jr.

After listening to many of the speeches given today at the March on Washington, I came away with mixed feelings. Some of the speeches were good while others fell back on the old and tired messages of dependence, victimization and classic avoidance. Those are not messages I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he gave his now timeless and memorable "I Have A Dream" speech 50 years ago today. In fact, in that speech, he said, "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." And make no mistake---for those too young to remember---it was a struggle for black Americans prior to, during and after that era.

A speech I would have liked to have heard today would have gone something like this:

"Ladies and gentleman, we are here today to not only honor a great American but to also pay tribute to his legacy---a legacy defined by the life he lead.

I am not going to stand up here and proclaim that racism is no longer a problem. That would be absurd. But it would be just as ludicrous to proclaim---as a nation, as a people---we have not made great strides in human dignity for all ethnic groups. After all, we're currently living in a nation that elected a black president---twice. We're living in a nation where one of the richest and successful women in the world is black. We're living in a nation where minority participation in higher education is almost four times more than it was 50 years ago, including five times as many black adults with college degrees. We're living in a nation where participation of African-Americans in all parts of our culture from entertainment to sports to politics is immeasurable compared to just several decades ago.

But we're also living in a nation where many of the problems faced by the black community have been self-inflicted. For example, the number of African-American children raised by a single parent is a staggering 72% in many areas of the country, nearly three times the rate of other children. The abortion rate among black women is 41 per 1000 women ages 15 to 19. The rate of black-on-black crime in many parts of this country borders on self-inflicted genocide of young African-American youth.

Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that the struggle for human and civil rights must include the participation of every American. He reminded us that hate was too great a burden to bear for a nation and its people. He reminded us that reliance and dependence on the government is not the answer to reconciling our problems. Instead, he reminded us that empowerment promotes a process where marginalized people can truly flourish without being dependent on perpetual handouts. He recognized that empowerment---not dependence and/or victim hood---would give people access to many of the opportunities available to every American in life and in society. In that struggle, Martin Luther King, Jr., was clear when he said disappointment is finite but hope is infinite. African-Americans should be reminded daily of the proud tradition of family and faith that sustained them through generations of horror associated with segregation and discrimination.

Martin Luther King, Jr., would have never accepted many of today's leaders and politicians--black or white---who continue to tolerate failure, especially failure that has been detrimental to generations of black youth. Neither should we. That would be a dream fulfilled. "