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Abolitionists, Then and Now

Something else more profound came through from Obama: the passion of Leonard Grimes.

Because of his life circumstances, Obama, like Grimes, had choices that were denied to most black people. Like Grimes, Obama could have elected to take a more comfortable path. Instead, Obama, as Grimes did, chose to help those who have been left out stand up to a society that doesn't stand up for them.

Listen closely to Obama, and you hear the voice of Leonard Grimes in the early years of black resistance.

Obama views poverty in America the way Grimes viewed slavery, and he asked the question Bobby Kennedy posed with tears in his eyes after seeing a hungry child in the Mississippi Delta: "How can a country like this allow it?" Obama said Wednesday that "the most American answer I can think of to that question is two words: We can't."

Then Obama said that "the political question that follows -- what do we do about it? -- has always been more difficult." He added, "But now that we're finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, the country has an obligation to keep trying."

Leonard Grimes did that until the day he died. Now it falls to Obama and the rest of us.

kingc@washpost.com


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