When it comes to President Obama and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the stars always seem to be aligned. Something of significance for one always seems to coincide brilliantly and movingly with something of significance for the other.
On Aug. 28, 1963, King exhorted the nation to “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.’ ” His dream would buttress the hopes of all who wanted their nation to do right by its people. All of its people.
On Aug. 28, 2008 — 45 years to the day after King spoke those stirring words — a great symbol of how far we’ve come accepted his party’s nomination for president of the United States. Just four years earlier at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Obama was merely a state senator from Illinois who wowed the nation with a speech that reminded us of who we are as Americans.
The nation has celebrated King’s birthday (Jan. 15) as a national holiday on the third Monday of January since 1986. In 2009, the King holiday fell on the day before Obama’s historic inauguration. A calendar coincidence that amplified the celebratory mood in Washington then. But today, the two events are in sync. On this day, when we commemorate the life and work of a man who helped free us all from state-sanctioned intolerance and bigotry, our eyes were glued on the West Front of the Capitol as the nation’s first black president took the oath of office for a second time using Bibles from President Lincoln and from King.
The power of this moment is moving beyond words. If only it could hover over Washington for longer than an afternoon.
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