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Monday, January 21, 2008

A Day For Hope

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Today we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, a man whose life was an exemplar to the nation not because he saw that a cancer still existed in the heart of the American dream (only the morally obtuse or morally corrupt could not have seen it) but because he had the courage to fight it, boldly, publicly, unceasingly until his last breath. His courage and sacrifice was his gift to the American experiment as it helped wipe away the vestiges of the lie that America told itself; that it could be the beacon of freedom in the world while separating people on the basis of the color of their skin.

Dr. King was not a perfect man, having human faults and a vision that contained too much of the collectivist impulse but no men are perfect and all great men stumble in many ways. But any faults fade into inconsequentiality in comparison to the great service he performed for his country.

Sadly, all these many years after his passing, many of those who claim to have taken up his mantle have shown themselves to be pale and venal imposters and the movement he started has devolved from a cry for freedom to a sad squabbling for group perks and preferences. It is demoralizing when a movement that once recognized a man like Dr. King as a leader now is broken into fragments and allows figures like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to claim to be his heirs, with far too little dissent.

But the current prevalence of the charlatans shouldn't cause us to despair. Dr. King's legacy isn't to be found with them. It is found in the hearts and realistic hopes of Black men and women who now live lives open with opportunities they would not have had but for him. If the condition of Blacks today has not yet fulfilled the hopes and dreams of Dr. King he knew that the road is long and hard to travel but he also knew that someday it would lead to the Promised Land. It still does.

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