The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America has raised in the
world am immense hope and a great emotion.
The arrival of a black man to the White House is the highest tribute to Martin Luther King.
Forty years earlier, the leader of the civil rights movement made a speech at the foot of the Abraham Lincoln’s memorial. This is King’s most famous speech “I have a dream” in which he called for a more humane and fraternal society free from the burden of racial discrimination:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
On the evening of Barack Obama’s election, King’s dream was partly realised. What was remarkable is the happy gathering of millions of American whites, blacks, Latinos, rich and poor in Grant Park in Chicago.
You’ve probably noticed the emotion of Jesse Jackson, a close associate of Rev. Luther King who was with him in the Lorraine Motel the day before his assassination. Jesse Jackson appeared as a living symbol of the civil rights movement. He successfully led the operation called “basket provision” which aimed to facilitate the access to jobs by the poorest people of Chicago made available by white traders. Result: 900 new jobs were given to blacks.
In an interview published in Paris Match [a French magazine], Jesse Jackson claims that he would have been very happy to see Martin Luther King attending this historic election. The same Dr. King who said in a speech with premonitory accents: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”.
Tonight I will stay in your town after a series of conferences that I had the privilege to lead in several cities in France. I tried to stress the continuity between the action of Atlanta’s preacher and the political commitment of Barack Obama. But it is clear that the United States of America had just given the world a lesson of democracy, of tolerance and openness.
The new president of the United States himself symbolises the new America. It is a triumph and the continuity of the American dream.
In his first speech as president-elect, he referred to the example of this woman, Ann Nixon Cooper, aged 106, who heard the pastor of Atlanta saying: “yes we can”.
On 4 November 2008, Americans have written a beautiful page of their history. The whole world showed its popular jubilation at the announcement of election results for the presidency of the Usa. We have seen moving pictures of black and white shaking hands and kissing each other.
We saw the implementation of the dream of August 1963: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood”.
Robert Kennedy, who found the right words to announce the assassination of Martin Luther
King, had also made a promise that within forty years the Usa would elect a black president.
We can therefore measure the journey made to this historic event. These few remarks lead me to talk more specifically about Martin Luther King.
Mamadou Vieux Diop (BG)
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