On this day, the stories of 2 historic figures converge

The News TribuneJanuary 21, 2013 

Today in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama will be sworn in as president of the United States for the second time. Also today, we honor the nation’s most influential advocate of civil rights, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The convergence of these two events is noteworthy. The first likely would not be taking place if it were not for the work of the other man. And so, we think it appropriate that we let the president’s own words pay tribute to King. They were spoken in October 2011 at the dedication of the King Memorial on the National Mall.

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On the historic 1963 March on Washington: “It is right that we honor that march, that we lift up Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech – for without that shining moment, without Dr. King’s glorious words, we might not have had the courage to come as far as we have. Because of that hopeful vision, because of Dr. King’s moral imagination, barricades began to fall and bigotry began to fade. New doors of opportunity swung open for an entire generation. Yes, laws changed, but hearts and minds changed, as well.

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“If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. . . . He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country.

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“As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as ‘divisive.’ They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing.”

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“Our work is not done. And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles. First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination.

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“And so with our eyes on the horizon and our faith squarely placed in one another, let us keep striving; let us keep struggling; let us keep climbing toward that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair, and more just, and more equal for every single child of God.”

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