Thursday, 6 November 2008


On Tuesday November 5, it seemed like the US and in kind, many countries around the world entered a bit of Dreamstate akin to Britain's May 5 1997 moment, but more profound.

I know thousands of people have commented similarly, but the one thing that I am strongly reminded of is how much Obama's politics are influenced by the 60's American Civil Rights movement. In particular, MLK's (what can only be described as a literally prophetic) vision of a future America expressed in his "I have a dream" speech and book "Strength To Love".

For me, the image that most brilliantly captured the event in my mind is of the children of MLKs era: Barack & Michelle (Jan'64), Joe and Jill (June'51) holding hands at the Grant Park party.

But, it's not just the fact that he foresaw an America that looked beyond the racial stereotypes of the day to a time when "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers"

It's not just that he was fighting against the gross injustices that stemmed directly from the civil war 102 years earlier.

But the many incidental details I think that are particularly poignant. Whether he says "we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt" or "It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment" he could have been speaking during the economic turmoil of last month and not over 45 years ago.

For MLK it wasn't only about the objectives, but the standard for attaining them "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline... we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force". This strategy, followed almost entirely to the letter for 45 years has brought a result that could not have been achieved by any other means.

And the recognition that this is really a struggle for the whole of America: "many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."

And not just a struggle in terms of skin colour; but the broadest possible sweep of God's intent. As a result MLK immerses his speech in rich Biblical themes: Mercy running like a river; Mountains being laid low* mediated through the magnificent (i.e. secular) Constitution of the United States; which he saw literally as a cheque written for all God's children, to be cashed in through faith in action.

I'm struck most of all by MLKs sense of timescale - which can only be described as pure prophecy. Despite the injustices he was campaigning against, injustices that spanned over 2 centuries he believed that although he might not get there, in fact his own children would: "my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" From my research all four of his children are still alive (they are in their late 50s or early 60s).

No one should be under the illusion that Obama is any kind of messianic figure. Yet, Obama fits the bill as the man of the moment; being born during the rise of the civil rights movement and elected at just the right time. He certainly appears to be the right man when judged by character and merit; rather than privilege and position. He made it to the highest post in the land in living memory of The Dream at a time of national (international) crisis as a man of intelligence and faith.