Forty –three years after the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, many still wonder what the world would look like if he had lived. Dr. King was the conscious of America who spoke out against hatred and bigotry, war and poverty and for social programs, change and equality. He probably would have been instrumental in the election of President Obama. More importantly, would President Obama be receptive to Dr. King’s advice on the state of our country’s affairs and particularly black America today?
Today, the state of black America has the highest foreclosure, incarceration and unemployment rates. Ward 8 of the nation’s capital, home for many African Americans, is also home to the highest unemployment in the country. The country is in military conflict with 3 countries, with the newest intervention in Libya. Our education system is failing many of our youth. Yet, Martin Luther King faced many similar issues in the 1960’s. If Martin Luther King lived today, here’s some advice he might have for President Obama.
Dr. King would be pleased to meet with President Barack Obama, the first African American president. He would believe that Obama is a fulfillment of his dream but not the fulfillment of his dream. Dr. King would applaud President Obama’s stance on health care reform. Dr. King is known to have once said that lack of access to health care is our biggest civil rights issue. Martin Luther King would unequivocally support universal health care reform. He knew that “injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere”. Denying access to health care for over 31 million uninsured Americans, those adults and children with pre-existing conditions, victims of domestic abuse, and young adults is an injustice that must be rectified.
Dr. King would not agree with Obama’s intervention in Libya and continued war in Afghanistan. As a Nobel Peace prize winner like Obama, Dr. King fully supported peace and deplored military intervention. Martin Luther King opposed the Vietnam War. In 1967, he spoke against the cost of war and the effect of the war on our country. His words are just as relevant today to the Afghanistan war, occupation and war in Iraq and recent Libya intervention. He said. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”. He knew that war cost a double price both here and abroad. His words against the Vietnam War could easily be interposed with the word Afghan. In speaking out against the Vietnam War, he said:
“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours”.
In 2011, we are still faced with spending more money on military defense than social programs, elimination of social programs, hatred and bigotry, just as in 1968. We now face elimination of unions and less support and joblessness for the middle class.
As for hope and change, Obama’s slogans for his election, Dr. King would remind President Obama to remain optimistic about our country’s future. He might suggest that President Obama take a bolder and less cautious approach to effectuate the necessary and needed change for America. And Dr. King would say to Obama that despite high unemployment, high foreclosure rates, threats of government shut downs and Tea Party protests, America will overcome. And he would truly say to Obama…”Yes, we can.” Dr. King knows we will get there because he’d been to the mountain top. But, we are still on the journey.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer and political and legal commentator. She is frequently seen in the media on issues of women and race in law and politics. She also contributes to the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.