Yesterday, on assignment for the community paper I write for, I attended the annual MLK Day celebration at Simi Second Missionary Baptist Church. The theme of the service was "A Dream Fulfilled-- On the Road to Equality." A banner hung above the choir with the images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama opposite one another. The connection between the two figures is apparent and deep. And today's inauguration was on the minds of every person sitting in the church pews. In anticipation of the swearing in, members of Simi Second's congregation acknowledged the special significance of this MLK Day. A portion of the dream has been fulfilled, they said. The country is moving toward the dream King envisioned. Because more than 45 years after King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Obama would take the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Most expressed a sense of amazement, saying that they never thought that in their lifetime they would see a black man step into the country's highest office.
The joy and hope for the future was evident in the dancing, the singing, the praising. Church-goers were moved out of their seats at the reading of King's dream, which still rings so true today:
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
"When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white man, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Echoing King's words, Obama said today in his inaugural address:
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed-- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.