Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream 45 years ago that in the United States of America people would one day be judged by their character and not the color of their skin. With Barack Obama poised to represent the Democratic Party in November’s presidential election, it seems that dream is beginning to materialize.
Dr. King’s assassination snuffed out any chance he might have had of seeing his dream come true, but I am one of those people who believe in an afterlife, and I am convinced that he is looking down on America and smiling.
Racism is still rampant in America, of course. In West Virginia, for example, pollsters found many primary voters who declared they would never back a candidate with dark skin. They will no doubt vote against Obama in the general election. Also, I am convinced, many black voters supported Obama because of his color and they will probably support him again in November.
Dr. King is not smiling at the white voters who spurn Obama because of his color or the black voters who embrace Obama for purely racial reasons. That is not the America he dreamed of.
I believe he is smiling because so many people paid no attention to the color of Obama’s skin. They voted for him because of “the content of his character.” Obama delivered an uplifting message and he did it with conviction and grace. He handled adversity with equanimity and success with dignity. At no time in the long and hard-fought primary campaign did he demean himself or his opponent. He fought like a gentleman and he treated Senator Clinton like a lady.
Now, the voters of America have a clear choice between Obama’s message of hope and John McCain’s message of fear. Jesus told a story about two servants entrusted with “seed money” by their master. One invested it and returned with a profit, the other buried it in the ground and earned nothing. It was the first servant that won their master’s praise.
I see Obama as that first servant, willing to trust the future, to bet on the best in humanity. I see McCain as the fearful servant who would bury America’s birthright in the ground.
That’s what I see. Others might read the candidates’ messages differently. But no matter, the choice will be made on the “content of their character.” I don’t think Obama will be elected because he is black. I don’t think McCain will be elected because he is white.
The vast majority of America’s voters will make their choice on the basis of the vision each candidate presents and the candidate’s perceived ability to realize that vision.
And that’s the America in Dr. King’s dream.