I was hoping that President Obama would speak to the other goal of the original “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” He didn’t disappoint me. After all, “jobs” is the greatest unfinished business for us of that day in August 1963. The obvious evil caused by segregation and exclusion was so blatant back then that it obscured the parallel fight for economic justice for America’s underclass, both black and white. Dr. King never forgot. His very presence in Memphis in April 1968 was to support a strike by sanitation workers for decent wages. King gave his life there for the cause of worker dignity and human freedom, yet the injustices in our economy remain as stark today for millions of our fellow citizens as they were then. Today, President Obama reminded us of that fact.
“The position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive. For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate. Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades.”
“The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers. And our politics has suffered…For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?”
President Obama issued a call to action today for all of us, a call to demand that Washington address the plight of the working class and the middle class in this nation. I would say that needs to be the chief purpose of the remainder of his term in office, as well. Nothing else is as important for the long-term health of our democracy.
Here is more of the President’s call to action:
“[Courage comes] when we turn not from each other or on each other but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That’s where courage comes from. With that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person. With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise…Change does not come from Washington but to Washington, that change has always been built on our willingness, we, the people, to take on the mantle of citizenship.”
Yes, Mr. President, but every movement requires a leader of courage to be the symbol of the fight, to rouse the people to action. Are you ready to be that leader, Mr. President? Are you?