Among those leaders, I know he would take a special interest in President Obama — not only because he is the first African-American to sit in the Oval Office, but because Dr. King recognized the power of one man to transform a nation. He would say that the president has the capacity to unify America, to bring us together as one people, one family, one house. He would say that a leader has the ability to inspire people to greatness, but that to do so he must be daring, courageous and unafraid to demonstrate what he is made of.
As a minister, never elected to any public office, Dr. King would tell this young leader that it is his moral obligation to use his power and influence to help those who have been left out and left behind. He would encourage him to get out of Washington, to break away from handlers and advisers and go visit the people where they live. He would urge him to meet the coal miners of West Virginia; to shake the hands of the working poor in our large urban centers, juggling mutiple jobs to try to make ends meet; to go to the barrios of the Southwest; and to visit native Americans on their reservations. He would urge Obama to feel the hurt and pain of those without work, of mothers and their children who go to bed hungry at night, of the families living in shelters after losing their homes, and of the elderly who chose between buying medicine and paying the rent.