Op-Ed: The Night Dr. King’s Dream Came True



I Have a Dream Today
“I Have a Dream Today”


Dr. Martin Luther King, from his immortal “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963.

Barack Obama Victory Speech, Des moines, Iowa, January 3, 2008


– Barack Obama, Victory Speech in Iowa, January 3, 2008

Last night, America changed forever — and for the better.

Last night, Democratic voters in Iowa shocked the world — and the political establishment.

Last night, 12 days before his birthday and in the 40th year since his assassination, the people of Iowa made Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream come true. They judged a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

Last night, Iowa Democrats honored the highest ideals that President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy stood and fought for — the ideals that Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and so many other lesser-known but equally brave Americans gave their lives for. They handed Senator Barack Obama a clear and decisive victory in the first caucus of the 2008 presidential race.

Last night, history was made, a massive milestone reached in what JFK once called the long twilight struggle. The struggle is far from over; we cannot for one moment forget the sacrifices it took to get us where we are — right now, right here in America.

Few under the age of 30 who were fortunate enough to grow up in a largely colorblind and desegregated society can imagine a time when their black brothers and sisters could not even sit beside them at a public lunch counter. Not so long ago in this country, a black American simply seeking to attend a state-run university had to be escorted in by federal troops after riots erupted in the streets. The very act of casting a vote was enough to put one’s safety in danger. In 1961 — the year Barack Obama was born — merely asserting a citizen’s right to travel subjected the Freedom Riders to brutal beatings, assault with firehoses, and the teeth of Bull Connor’s unforgiving, bloodthirsty police dogs.

Few of us over the age of 30 could have imagined the reality of an African-American man being a serious contender for President of the United States in our lifetimes. Few could honestly believe that in the American heartland, in a state whose population is nearly 95% white, Iowans would choose a black man as the candidate best qualified to lead our country.

But they did. And it’s wonderful. Somewhere, MLK is smiling. 


While Barack Obama is not the first black candidate to win a presidential primary (that honor goes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who won five primaries in 1984 and 11 contests in 1988), he has upped the stakes considerably. Jackson’s wins made history, but his long history as a civil rights activist unfortunately caused him to be labeled as a radical. Many said Jackson was too liberal, too polarizing a figure to be the party nominee, and gave him little hope of winning a general election. By contrast, Obama appeals to mainstream American voters of both parties, giving him a far better chance to compete in November.

Jackson, a former King aide, was standing beside him on the balcony of the Hotel Lorraine in Memphis when MLK was murdered. His presidential bids in `84 and `88 revived the spirit of Dr. King and this helped propel Jackson’s candidacy to victory in several primaries. Jackson carried mostly left-leaning states with large black populations (Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi in 1984, adding Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Michigan, Delaware and Vermont four years later), and was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination early in 1988.

Can it happen again? Can Obama do even better? Many believe that he can. What made his surprise win in Iowa so remarkable was not just the fact that he pulled it off in a a key early primary state which is almost all white, but the David-and-Goliath aspect of this race made his victory even more interesting. His opponent was a former first lady and the projected winner in nearly every pre-caucus poll. Jesse Jackson did not have to campaign against a former president (stumping for his wife) of his own party — and an incredibly powerful, well-financed political machine.

But perhaps the most critical difference of all is that Obama seems to be bringing the right message for the times in which we live. A message of hope, of change, of unity — and that this message is clearly striking a deep chord with America’s youth, who will be our future.

In his victory speech last night, Senator Obama spoke of hope winning over fear. “We are choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

“We are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States!” 

It doesn’t matter if Barack Obama is your candidate or not. At present, he is not my candidate. He is not Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidate. What matters is the seismic change in American society and culture Obama’s victory last night represents. And that will reverberate forever.

See this story for more coverage of the Iowa Caucus results, and all candidates in the race.

Copyright RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.



Filed under election 2008, hillary clinton, JFK, John F. Kennedy, media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Op-Ed: The Night Dr. King’s Dream Came True

  1. Pingback: Helena

  2. Pingback: TheDreamLivesOn

  3. Pingback: Ron

  4. Pingback: Harold

  5. Pingback: Melina

  6. Spirit Of America

    As i see it, Bobby now has a choice: he can be part of the progressive change that is coming or be remembered as a stooge of the establishment elites.

    if/when Hillary becomes president and continues the policies of Bush, does RFK jr. want to be part of that?

    just because the kennedys supported the clintons in the past doesn’t mean they have to continue supporting them now, especially if clinton is not what is best for our country at this point in time.

  7. Jon

    I can’t explain why RFK jr. is supporting Hillary instead of Obama. i guess he has his reasons.

    But I’d like to point out that his uncle JFK did more for the cause of civil rights than any president before him had in a century.

    Dr. King’s March on Washington could never have happened on Nixon’s watch. Or even Eisenhower.

    We have JFK to thank for that transformative moment in our history. Obama just upped the stakes big time.

  8. Jon

    Hillary’s candidacy is the Titanic. The inevitable, unstoppable, unsinkable ship has a hole in its side and is taking on water.

    Abandon ship, Bobby!!!

  9. Letitia

    I agree with Jon above about JFK, who is often criticized for “not doing enough” on civil rights. This is a false statement and I’ve grown tired of hearing it from Kennedy’s critics.

    Whereas every occupant of the Oval Office before him paid lip service to Civil Rights (with the possible exception of Ike), it was JFK who DID SOMETHING about it. Lyndon johnson may get the credit for passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but it was Kennedy’s bill.

    Unfortunately, JFK did not live long enough to see it passed. It didn’t happen on his watch – but to this credit, LBJ took that ball and ran with it, making sure the Civil Rights Act was passed- in Kennedy’s name.

    Would LBJ have made civil rights such an important issue in his administration if not for the assassintion of his predecessor? Most likely not. Would Dr. King’s March on Washington have happned on his watch? Unlikely, too – had Kennedy not blazed the trail first.

    This is what pissed me off so much when I heard Hillary clinton’s recent comments about MLK and LBJ. She was obviously trying to diminish the importance of Dr. King, saying “it took a president to get things done.”

    True enough – but what she didn’t say was: it took a strong civil rights leader like Dr. King to PUSH civil rights legislation onto the desk of a president who was willing to listen and take action. That president was JFK.

    Left strictly to their own devices, I think it is unlikely that either JFK or LBJ would have made civil rights legislation a priority. It took MLK and those within the movement to force their hands.

    That is the power of the people. Never let anyone (including Hillary clinton) tell you that hope cannot produce real change. Hope, combined with determination and action, is a force to be reckoned with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s