This past week a friend and I made our way through the security lines and wound our way through the crowds to hear Obama's MLK anniversary speech.
I was touched by his nod to the nameless, relatively poor Americans who had come to Washington 50 years before to speak up for their rights. Obama's speech emphasized that it was these seamstresses, teachers and laborers who ultimately changed America
In a culture obsessed with the fame and fortune that few will ever acquire, the reminder that the poor ultimately changed America for the better I think made many in the crowd feel more valuable.
Of course the working class has often changed the world-- the French Revolution, the American revolution and arguably the Arab Spring.
But many more times, perhaps, the poor find themselves hapless victims... Subject to the will and greed of tyrannical leaders.
This leads to the one piece I felt Obama could have added to his speech.
America has far more for to do to ensure freedom and justice for all. Black America still suffers from all sorts of prejudice, instructional obstruction and structural violence. But things are better. America is and always will be a work in progress.
In Lincoln's Gettysburg address he called on America "for us the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work" and to be "dedicated to the great task before us."
We are a work in progress. One of our great blessings, I wish Obama had said, is that in spite of our imperfections we are still in a position to help indisputable victims in Syria.
MLK wanted us to treat each other as brothers. Any student of the Greek myths, the Bible or general history knows bothers often do not treat each other very well. So it is astonishing when people do care about " people from far away places with hard to pronounce names"
America is lucky to be in a position to act in Syria not to take sides but to stand behind all of the post-WWII calls to put an end to gross human rights violations.
The United States once more than once has acted as badly toward its people as this Syrian regime. Maybe not with gas but the Native Americans and African Americans suffered greatly under the US government... Has have millions of others around the world.
But today we are in a position to make a contribution. Not as financially strong as we were in the 1950, perhaps, but still strong enough to stand up for the oppressed.
If the US can do so unselfrighteously, understanding that it too has played the oppressor, then some good action could take place in the coming weeks.
The US is still a global watchdog. England is shying away...another reason why the American revolution changed the world. Those poor workers who stood up against King George gave birth to a country that still can stand up to bullies.