Note: I wrote this post on August 29th 2013, a day after Obama gave this speech. I am not sure why I did not post it then, but I present it here, unchanged, just as I wrote it:
American President Barack Obama’s “I Don’t Have a Dream” Speech (August 28th 2013) was not called that, but that is what it was. Fifty years to the day, to the hour, after Dr Martin Luther King, Jr gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”, President Obama gave a speech to mark the occasion, standing in the very same place in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Obama said, in effect, that he has no dream, that if Americans have a dream, then they need to get it together and push for change themselves. “Change does not come from Washington,” he said.
This from the man who five years ago who ran for president with the line, “Change we can believe in.”
This from America’s first black president.
This from a man who put his hand on the Bibles of both Lincoln and King when he was sworn into office. And is again wrapping himself in King and Lincoln.
Since becoming president over four years ago he has spoken about race to the country as a whole only once before – last month, a week after the Zimmerman verdict. Then he offered little in the way of government action. The same goes for this speech.
In his “I Don’t Have a Dream” speech Obama noted the progress made over the past 50 years – not just for blacks, but for women, gays, Latinos, etc. He noted the progress still to be made. He noted how America has lost its way on race. But, apart from some action on voter rights, he was not going to do anything about it.
The words of King and Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence are just things to mouth, to wrap himself in. They are not words he takes seriously.
It is possible for a president to give a speech about civil rights and, at the very same time, in the very same speech, “ruin it” by saying what he is going to do. It has been done. Kennedy did it – 50 years ago.
Apparently if people want progress on equality they have have to mount something like the civil rights movement, burn cities, get some clean-cut white people killed, etc.
If only a black man were president.
“He is just being realistic.” Fine, but then do not clothe that realism in the idealism of King and Lincoln. Just be honest.
After his second inauguration I wondered if he was a Rented Negro, a black face on white power. I now have my answer: If he were going to do anything on race, this speech would have been the time and place to roll it out, to frame it, give it moral force. He did not.
– Abagond, 2013.