Sunday, January 18, 2009

MLK Day, Malia Steals the Show

Happy Martin Luther King Day, the one federal holiday that Congress had to be coerced and cajoled into making... I like how Barack Obama has tried to make it into a day of service, a day of action along with reflection.

I was in college the day the MLK was assassinated. By the reaction from the black guys on campus, I thought for sure there was going to be race riots and a lot more killings. It was one thing being young and thinking you have no prejudices, to suddenly being aware how thin that veneer really is, walking around and being the target of animosity just because of the color of your skin. I like to think we, as a people, have made progress since then, but deep down I have this fear for Barack, because we are still seriously flawed.

CNN interviewed Barack Obama last Friday about the historic significance of the upcoming inauguration:

"You can think about what Washington, D.C., was like 50 years ago or 60 years ago," when the city was segregated, Obama said, "and the notion that I now will be standing there and sworn in as the 44th president, I think is something that hopefully our children take for granted. But our grandparents, I think, are still stunned by it, and it's a remarkable moment."

When asked about the deep emotion that many blacks will feel at his swearing-in, Obama said, "Well, I'm going to try to keep it together." But at the Democratic convention in Denver last August, he said, "there was a moment at the end of my convention speech where I talk about Dr. King and what he accomplished. And the first time we practiced it, I had to stop. I started choking up, because, you know, when you start thinking about is not just your own personal journey. But you think about all the women who walked instead of riding the bus, out in Montgomery and Birmingham, and what a moment like this would mean to them."

Remarkably, he said, "some of them are still alive."

He was referring to boycotts of city buses in Alabama when blacks had to give up their seats to whites.

Obama also spoke of his visit last weekend to the Lincoln Memorial with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10. He said Sasha noted of Lincoln's second inaugural address, "Boy, that's a long speech. Do you have to give one of those?"

Obama told her that his speech Tuesday might be even longer.

"At which point then Malia turns to me and says, 'First African-American president. Better be good,"' Obama said.

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