The tribute to King—one of last century’s most important men—was in order, though somewhat trivialized by black activist and radio personality Tavis Smiley, who questioned in a column in the H-L of 28 August President Obama’s or anyone else’s “moral authority to speak where King spoke” (Lincoln Memorial). Abe’s ghost must have grinned. Smiley wrote that despite all the progress made, class and race undeniably hold back too many citizens, but black Americans disproportionately. Compared to whom, one wonders.
Smiley implied that King had made the Lincoln Memorial a “sacred place,” leaving one to wonder if Lincoln might have grinned again, or if the ceremony should have been somewhere else on the Mall, maybe at the foot of King’s statue, towering three stories high above the crowd and all other monuments on the Mall with sculpted people. Many people besides the president spoke on the Monument at the Commemoration. Did they defile it?
I didn’t take in all the speeches at the Memorial, though I heard quite a number, as well as those of Senators Reid and McConnell at the capitol the day before. I heard the president’s speech, perhaps one of his better ones. It turned into a campaign-style declamation after a while but that’s to be expected. He looked down at his manuscript once and I feared that the rain might have affected the teleprompters. He did not end with the usual “God bless America” or something like that, so political correctness was in place.
Eliza Byard, executive director of the New York based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, was a speaker and honored the late Bayard Rustin, founder of SCLC and CORE and perhaps the highest-profile black homosexual of last century and recipient posthumously from Obama of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
There was the usual manmade-global-warming alarmist—can’t remember her name—to tie that subject in with the celebration of civil rights, as well as retired basketball player Bill Russell. The head of the National Organization of Negro Women was a speaker as well as Randi Weingarten, a bit of a screamer who is the head of the American Federation of Teachers, an organization that has contributed mightily to the degradation of education in this country, especially in its cities.
Since he had been so prominent in the ceremony on 24 August, one might have hoped that CNN race-monger Al Sharpton would not mar the King-Speech celebration, but there he was at the Memorial, spouting his usual venom. The gist of it was that the fighters of Jim Crow in King’s day have morphed today into the fighters of “James Crow, Jr., esq.,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
At least Sharpton didn’t launch into a deification of Trayvon Martin, which seemed to be what many celebrants wanted. Perhaps he thought twice (if that’s possible) about the black teenagers now in various courts for beating a white 88-year-old wounded WWII veteran to death; the black teenager being tried for shooting a white baby to death in his stroller after shooting his white mother twice or the three black teenagers who tried to beat another boy to death on a school-bus while the driver looked on, not daring to stop them for fear of…who knows.
Ironically, the mood set by the speakers was that blacks are victims, notwithstanding that most if not all of those speakers either are, as well-documented, or appeared to be quite well-off, thank you, under the system as it has evolved in the last 50 years. The one cat that was nowhere to be seen was a republican—none invited—amazingly ironic since the commemoration was held at the location of, as Obama put it, the “great emancipator,” progenitor of the Republican Party.
King’s argument in 1963 was with the states south of the Ohio River latitude and a few west of the Mississippi, meaning the southern democrats, not with the nation as a whole. Remember Bobby Byrd or Strom Thurmond (long filibusters against civil rights legislation) or George Wallace or Orville Faubus. Republicans in the Congress turned the tide in the 1960s but they were not invited on “dream day.”
And so it goes.