President Obama has been called the embodiment of Martin Luther King and his dream. As the nation’s first African American president, Obama illustrates how far we’ve come and how opportunities have improved since King’s day.
But things haven’t changed for many. There’s a long way to go and a lot left undone, as Obama said in his speech yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial. He spoke on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, standing where King delivered it.
Here’s an excerpt where he talks about opportunities and unfinished business…
“And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call—this remains our great unfinished business.”
Obama was speaking about equality of opportunities—one of 10 core values that a large majority of Americans hold dear. As we’ve seen this week, opportunities are far from equal for vast numbers of Americans. If opportunities were even remotely close to equal, we wouldn’t see the vast disparities between whites and blacks in income, wealth, home-ownership, and other outcomes.
Only 26% of blacks say that the situation of black people in this country is better today compared to five years ago, according to the Pew Research Center. Whites tend to agree: Only 35% of whites say that the situation of black people is better today than five years ago. Opinions of both groups were more optimistic in 2008, when Obama was first elected president. But optimism faded after that.
If you watched Obama’s speech or read about it, what do you think of his message?
What’s your opinion of the situation of black people in this country today compared to5 years ago?
How optimistic are you about the future?