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We are celebrating the life of
Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, and I must admit that this is the first
time I don’t feel as called to speak about him. Martin called out the dreams of his
day. This is a new day. This is our day, and we now call out the
dreams of our day. Yes, we can
A different young black man leads us now, one who was not quite two years
old when Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. President-elect Barack Obama is
preparing to take the oath of office in only two days, and he will lead this
nation, defend our constitution, take over the reigns of the greatest military
power in the world, and, let us hope, continue to announce and pursue the dreams
of peace and justice for our day.
Obama has said many inspiring words to bring him to this remarkable point
in history, including the following, which echoes the dreams of Martin Luther
King: “We have a stake in one
another … what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and … if
enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we
might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the
people with whom we share this Earth.”
President-elect Obama does not stand alone. His inspiration has sparked the hearts
of young and old, black and white, here and around the world. We have hope. We dream new dreams more
confidently. We dream old dreams
with renewed strength.
I see the possibilities emerging like crocuses in the Spring—gentle
blossoms, yet hardy against the cold, and such wonderful harbingers of
rebirth. I envision purple
crocuses, not just because I like the color purple, or because I like flowers,
but because Barack Obama reminded us that we are not primarily red or blue, or
red, white and blue, but purple –we are together in this rebirth of hope, of new
possibilities emerging triumphantly like purple crocuses in the Spring.
We are called and we are calling for change. In the Fall, many from this congregation
signed the petition from the National Religious Coalition Against Torture,
asking that whoever was elected president remove this evil from being practiced
and sanctioned by our government.
We can now see that the appointments Obama has proposed, as well as the
promises he has made, all point to this becoming a reality soon. The breeding ground of American torture,
the prison at Guantanamo Bay, will be closed. We begin again, we proud Americans, to
stand up as leaders in the struggle for human rights and justice.
We are called and we are calling for change. Recently this congregation signed a
petition from UU Mass Action, calling upon our president-elect to keep the
environmental concern of global warming as a top priority in his economic
stimulus package. We can note that
his proposals continue to give us hope in this area.
This president-elect enters into executive power at a dark time for our
nation, when domestic and foreign issues are pressing down weightily upon us,
when global concerns for the health of the planet are a true cause for alarm,
and when we are coming to the end of a period in which we have undoubtedly never
been more despised as a country by people from around the world.
This president-elect also enters into world leadership at a surprisingly
hopeful time, when people here and afar are actually beginning to believe that
we can work together to solve the enormous problems that threaten the wellbeing
of everyone. In robust
demonstrations of citizen participation, from huge voter turnout, to petitions
such as the ones we have filed and more, to the emerging volunteer efforts
everywhere, to the expectation of an extraordinary turnout to celebrate the
inauguration in Washington, D.C., and in small and large venues around the
nation and the world—in all of these ways—we are together. We are united in our diversity in
wanting this administration, this Congress, this democracy, to succeed, to
shine, to turn us around, to reach for the seemingly impossible dreams, and to
really make a difference. We are,
all of us, called out, to dream, and to call those dreams forward into precious
We don’t have to wait any longer.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Let us face the urgency of
now. There is such a
thing as being too late.” We begin
today; we begin tomorrow. To honor
Rev. King, Jr. tomorrow, Michelle and Barack Obama are asking us to participate
in a “Day of Service” in our communities, so as to “renew America
together”. You can volunteer in any
way, alone, or together, and many opportunities await, but do try to do
something tomorrow, to find some way to serve. If you don’t think you have the time or
the whatnot to volunteer, just remember that the Obamas will be volunteering in
Yes, on their last day to prepare for the colossal change that is coming
into their lives as the First Family, the Obamas will find the time and the
whatnot to serve.
We have an example to follow with President-elect Obama, and not just
because he is volunteering—all presidents seem to have been captured in
photo-ops doing community service in recent years. Barack Obama is setting a different tone—we are being asked to do something as well. We are being called out. He has said, “The true test of the
American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise
together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped
by events and history, or whether we act to shape them.”
How marvelous that our presidential inauguration and King’s holiday come
side by side this year. The Martin
Luther King, Jr. holiday has always been a different kind of holiday for
us. Not commemorating any
political, national or religious event, it has instead called us to remember the
prophetic, the inspirational, the hopeful words and deeds of this man and the
many movements he helped lead in the causes of peace and justice. We are lifted up; we are invited to be
our best selves. Upon accepting the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Martin Luther King said, “I refuse to accept the idea
that the ‘is-ness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of
reaching up for the eternal “ought-ness” that forever confronts him.”
We must remember that not everyone, as they go about their daily lives,
gets a regular dose of inspiration, helping them to reach up for the eternal
“ought-ness”. Not everyone has a
religious or spiritual practice, or reads poetry or holy words. Not everyone can look to a person of
hope in their personal lives. Quite
the opposite. Many people “lead
lives of quiet desperation”, hearing regularly the words of anger, fear, and
divisiveness. But, once a year, we
all have a national deluge of words of inspiration, of the Spirit, and we look
to a person of hope in the figure of Martin Luther King, Jr. King said, “I have the audacity to
believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies,
education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for
their spirits. I believe that what
self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men will build up.” The words of King are lifted up across
the nation this long weekend, and we are better for it.
What I believe is changing in our nation is that we do, now, in our
national lives, have a leader who is willing to deal in inspirational words, in
words of the Spirit, and of hope, who is able to articulate dreams and call us
forth to dream with him. Barack
Obama has trumpeted hope, exclaiming, “Hope—Hope in the face of
difficulty. Hope in the face of
uncertainty. The audacity of
hope.” It’s marvelous to have
another young man tell us it’s okay to have audacity when we are hoping for a
better world. Barack Obama is
setting a tone, speaking the truth, challenging us to the same belief in the
possibility for change that Dr. King did.
We are not the only country who observes Dr. King’s holiday. Around the world this man and his dreams
are remembered and honored. “We
Shall Overcome” has been sung in many languages and for many causes. We are also not the only country to
celebrate this new president.
Around the world people are hoping that the dreams of President-elect
Obama, his calls for action, and his agenda, will raise up the lives of all
Some have said that Obama walks in the footsteps of Robert F. Kennedy, a
justice-seeking man of the people, assassinated so soon after Martin Luther
King, Jr. Robert Kennedy said,
“each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lots of others,
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million
different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can
sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.”
We need energy and daring, hope and ideals, acts and currents of
change. We face these next four
years with renewed vigor. We are
calling out the dream. We are
called to act upon the dreams of our days. And so we are building the beloved
community that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of so passionately. We are beginning today, and tomorrow,
and the next day too. Happy Days of
celebration! Blessings and peace to
Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association
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Last updated on Monday, March 25, 2013.
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