Saturday, April 05, 2008

DREAMERS GREAT AND SMALL

Yesterday, April 4, 2008, was the 40th anniversary of the death of the greatest American of the last hundred years. This is the one 20th century figure who we honor with a national holiday, a holiday that symbolizes our commitment to justice, courage, unity, and, above all, character.

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., we can all dream. But not all of our dreams are as grandiose as his. Today, in honor of the new baseball season and a new stadium in what will hopefully become a “new” city, I offer a dream of my own. I certainly hope that by borrowing his rhetoric (and much of his language), I don’t cause the great Dr. King to roll over in his grave:

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all cities are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood and decide to make a pilgrimage to their nation’s capital.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, once sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into a place where caravan after caravan of minivans containing folks, both white and black, embark on a trip to see the National Gallery of Art, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Mount Vernon, and its most unifying shrine of all, Nationals Park.

I have a dream that my two daughters will one day live in a nation where their city will not be judged by the color of the skin of the majority of its inhabitants, but by the importance of the work that is done there and the potential of that work to beautify our nation and our world.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips once dripped with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and agree that they will devote at least part of their lives to a so-called “public service” occupation,” maybe even in public office.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every American valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, the crooked businesspeople and politicians will be made straight, our nation’s public and private sectors can extol each other’s virtues, and the electorate will be active and energized, and all flesh shall see this together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to my home in suburban Bethesda, Maryland. 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, to watch National League baseball together, knowing that we will be free one day of Washington-D.C. bashing, free of suggestions by demagogues that those who struggle in public service are somehow not “real” Americans unlike their brothers and sisters in the Midwest.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My capital city, 'tis of thee, sweet town of unity, of thee I sing. Town for which my fathers cried, town for which my mothers sighed, but now a source of all our pride, let the bells of the National Cathedral ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let unity ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let unity ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let unity ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let unity ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let unity ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let unity ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let unity ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let unity ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let unity ring.

When we let unity ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, you know what this means. We will have stopped trying to appeal more to “Reagan Democrats” than to “yellow-dog Democrats,” or more to libertarians than to “values” conservatives,” but we will instead respectfully admit all Americans into the national dialogue. We will have stopped trying to say that “elites” in Manhattan or Dupont Circle are less entitled to our respect than mechanics from Mechanicsburg. We will have stopped speaking about our politicians like we expect them to lie to us, but demand instead that they treat us with honesty and challenge us by appealing to our better angels. And when all this is accomplished, and only when all this is accomplished, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Unitarian-Universalist spiritual, "Unified at last! Unified at last! thank God Almighty, we are unified at last!"

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P.S. – This bizarre little post was inspired by two things: my sincere love for MLK, Jr. and my sheer delight at the idea that the Washington Nationals won the first three games of their season. Since then, the Nats have dropped their last two … and reality may be setting in. But it’s always nice sometimes to put reality aside for a moment and dream a little. To me, the Obama candidacy has been two parts reality and three parts dream. And I have no doubt that while MLK, Jr. might be shaking his head at my own attempt to transform his words, he could only be thrilled at the thought that he so palpably inspired a politician as gifted as our next President, Barack Hussein Obama.

4 comments:

Betty C. said...

That is a rather strange combination of inspiration, but vive l'originalité!

Just wanted to tell you that my niece will likely be employed by the Obama campaign in Oregon this summer (as long as he gets the nomination) and that she and my parents are big fans of Novick! I think my niece went to hear him speak...

Daniel Spiro said...

Betty,

Novick is Da' Bomb! He is ahead of his Democratic opponent in the polls, and the race wouldn't even be close if he weren't running against an opponent with institutional advantages. In that sense, it is very much like the Obama/Hillary contest. I am more confident about Barack winning than Steve, but Steve has a hell of a chance. You'd love the guy -- he has a great sense of humor, as is apparent from going to You Tube and watching some of his ads (and segments like the one on Fox News).

YoungMan said...

Struggling in public service??????

Hardedeharharhar. Comments like that are precisely why Washington is so bashable. A civil servant always gets paid, is recession proof, is accountable to no one, and has socialized benefits which most can only dream of. They are so often reviled because they appropriate power to themselves, when they know they could not withstand an electoral process. I at least have to give your buddy Novick props relative to you on that one.

Stop trying to flatter yourself. It makes the few good points you and your side makes far less credible.

Blum was right about you.....

Daniel Spiro said...

Youngman,

Believe it or not, this post wasn't about me. It was about love for public service and my city of Washington. You're entitled to your opinion, but you would sound more credible if you didn't state your opinion like it's an objective fact. If you like objective facts, you should study math instead of right-wing political theory.