Martin Luther King, Jr. was a drum major for peace.
But yesterday it seemed that 44 years after the death of the greatest civil rights leader ever to walk the Earth, the public elected a new drum major. His name is Barack Obama.
My Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages were flooded with images of Barack Obama next to Martin Luther King during the Presidential Inauguration yesterday. Millions of people compared the two, drew comparisons and believed that Obama’s second inauguration was Martin Luther King’s dream come true.
But is it?
The two men have some similarities, but many aspects of their lives are different. They walked down different paths, shared different upbringings and their careers are completely different.
Sure, Martin Luther King wanted a nation where people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
But his dream was so much more than a seat at the table. So just because Barack’s mother was a little white girl who grew up to join hands with a Black boy to do an amazing thing by creating the first African American president, does not mean this is Martin’s dream come true.
America today would only remind Martin of a dream he once had, but we have a lot further to go before his dream is fulfilled.
Today’s black leaders have been extremely critical of Obama, implying that unlike Martin, Obama was more interested in his own legacy than helping people.
Cornel West said:
“I think at this point he’s obsessed with being on Mount Rushmore, he wants to be a great figure in the pantheon of American presidents,” West told the Financial Times. “If you’re thinking about Mount Rushmore, you’re thinking about your legacy, your legacy, your legacy. Puh-lease.”
While this is one man’s opinion, it would go against what Martin believed. In his famous speech, ‘A Drum Major’s Instinct,’ Rev King preached not to mention his Nobel Peace Prize or his 400 other awards at his funeral, but rather:
“I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.”
In today’s world it’s only natural Barack cares about his legacy, but people like Cornel West need to remember that Obama is not the president of Black people, but of ALL people – he can’t tackle only Black issues. The way this democracy is set up, Obama’s agenda has to go through the House and the Senate before it gets to his desk. It’s a lot harder than saying, ‘Here is what I want to do and I am going to do it.’
You see, people seem to forget that Barack Obama is the president. He’s not a reverend. He might not be Martin’s dream come true, but he is a big part of what that dream stood for. So we cannot stop now, we must continue to push for the completion of MLK’s dream.
One of Martin’s closest aides, Rev. Joseph Lowery, believes Obama and Martin are very much alike:
“They are both committed to justice and brotherhood.”
“Barack’s background was entirely different from Martin’s,” he said. “But he is touched by human need and suffering and the belief that we have the same moral obligation to care for the needy and bless the poor.”
This passion and compassion for the poor is something the two great leaders share more than any president prior. So I don’t want to come down too hard on our President. Obama seems committed to helping the poor, to building the middle class. He extended unemployment benefits, made it easier to get food stamps and fought to protect programs for the poor. These things would have made Martin proud.
But still a lot of blacks feel like Obama isn’t doing enough. Hell, a lot of blacks felt like Martin didn’t do enough. Still the debate wages on.
Obama so eloquently spoke about his commitment to the poor in his Inaugural Address:
“Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Obama said in his relatively brief, 18-minute address. “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.”
At the end of the day, Martin and Barack lived in different times. Martin fought for different reasons than Barack and his efforts helped craft an America that made Obama’s accomplishments possible. Obama faces challenges that Martin could never even dream of. So when Martin spoke about the downfall of America, he did so from the outside looking in:
“God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.”
Obama is in that chair with his finger on the button. He has to face the harsh realities of what to do in these situations, when American lives are in his hands. Do you order a drone strike? Do you order the raid to capture Bin Laden, or do you not attempt to breach another country’s border because that order goes against the rules of engagement when the other guys stopped playing by those rules long ago?
Yes, Obama’s moment in history will forever be linked to Martin’s moment in history, but in actuality, there are parallel paths to a better America. These two men are as different as they are alike, but one thing is for sure, they are both great leaders.
No one can debate that.
Xilla is the Sr. Entertainment Editor for GlobalGrind.com as well as CEO of the number 1 relationship blog BlogXilla.com/M2TB.com. He has been featured in XXL, The Source, Essence, LA Times and is considered one of the premiere bloggers in the industry. Follow him on twitter @BlogXilla