Transcending The Moment
"In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now."
- Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963
My seven-year-old daughter sat with me for a bit as we watched Barack Obama give his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency of the United States. Together we witnessed history. America and the world took a historic step forward tonight.
A country that was founded on the noble but unfulfilled notion that all men are created equal, a country that until the Thirteenth Amendment legally allowed men to own Black men as slaves, a country that within our lifetime has witnessed the lynching of Black men, has now put a Black man in a position to vie to lead it. It is this legacy of injustice that makes this moment historic and seismic in its impact. America is at its best when it strives to fulfill its founding promise. Tonight it took a giant step in that direction.
What brought us to this moment was Barack Obama. He stood tonight in front of 85,000 citizens at Mile High Stadium in Denver not because he was a Black man, but because he was the Democratic candidate who had garnered the most votes. Barack Obama’s improbable run at the presidency tonight shouldered the added burden of the weight of history. The moment had the potential to overshadow the man. Instead Barack Obama transcended it.
Tonight, on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech, Barack Obama delivered an acceptance speech that seized the moment and transcended it. It was a masterful speech. The speech laid down the campaign roadmap to the election in November. He fired back at John McCain, skewered the Bush administration, made the case for change, delivered policy specifics, and introduced himself to the American public. He accomplished all these tasks in a crisp, often tough, sometimes soaring, and always compelling 46-minutes of masterful speechmaking. It was a speech that left Republican strategists confused and the McCain campaign scrambling for a response. It was an acceptance speech that will be considered amongst the best of its kind. It was remarkable to watch.
Tomorrow the campaign continues. The race is yet to be won. Victory in November for Barack Obama is far from certain. But tonight will be remembered. Forty five years ago Martin Luther King Jr. said that he had come to Washington to cash a check on the promissory note that was the founding principles of America. Tonight that check was partially cashed.