President Obama declared today, “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.”
In reflecting on “this moment,” I could not help noticing what a powerful confluence of events today marks. Even as we celebrate the memorial holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who so publicly and passionately shared his dream for America with the world, we witnessed the inaugural swearing-in for the second time of Barack Obama - one who embodies so much of the Dreamer’s dream in his very person. He is biracial and brilliant; educated and eloquent, at home with Kings, Emperors, and Shahs - yet continuously mindful of the struggles of everyday Americans who just want an equal shot at living the dream. He recognizes his own imperfections and flaws enough to be gracious to others when theirs are laid bare for all to see - even when those flaws include the mean-spirited and hateful rhetoric and obstructive deeds which have been leveled at him from his opposition for the entire first term.
As I recall, Mr. Obama entered office in his first term with a dream of his own about governing. He hoped to usher in a new era of political practice in which “the back-room deal” and the “good ole boy” network would be replaced by representatives who would put people’s needs over politics and do that which is best for the nation, even if it was not politically expedient for them in every individual instance. Day by day, he was awakened from that dream by harsh reality imposed by the members of the GIANT OBSTRUCTIONIST PARTY- some of whom opposed him on honest differences in the philosophy of governance, but most of whom seem motivated by a hatred one can only believe to be deeply rooted in racism.
However, as ugly as much of his first-term experience has been, I was delighted today to hear that this man still has a dream. He has awakened perhaps from the 2009 version of the dream, but he still has a dream.
All of us know that dreams are ephemeral things - fleeting at best and often hard to recall in our conscious daytime hours. But dreams and dreamers are important to our lives, our communities, our society and our world. For without dreams we will stagnate and settle for the status quo - good or bad as that may be in our individual situations. Without dreamers who are willing to give voice to their vision and share it with others who have been gifted by God and positioned in “this moment” to make the dream a reality, we can never reach the fullness of the future that exists at first, only in our dreams. Dreamers risk being ridiculed and rebuffed and even dismissed as crazy, but it is essential that they continue to dream and to share their dreams. How else can we become foot soldiers in the movement that will flesh out the dream and breathe life into it and fight to incorporate it into our life experiences without their willingness to share?
Thank God for those whose dreams made “this moment” possible and real for us. We know Mary McLeod Bethune and Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers and George Washington Carver on whose shoulders we stand today. But we also must be mindful of and grateful for the unknown and unnamed dreamers who persisted or served as foot soldiers for change - those who engaged in sit-ins or boycotts or endured lynchings, hosings and dog attacks because they would not abandon the dream of a better world and an equal opportunity for our people and all people.
We who have benefitted so richly from their dreams made real and available, as we witness the second inaugural of a new manifestation of the dreams of our people, have an obligation to our posterity. That is, we must teach our children and grandchildren to dream a better world and the importance of being willing to serve to bring it to reality. Too many of them have been so consumed by the negative realties of poverty, violence, abandonment and denial of opportunity that they have given up not only on the dreams of our ancestors, but on any dream.
So, today as we witness the swearing in of President Barak Obama - quite literally an African American - for his second term, let’s be vigilant and intentional and tireless in our efforts to keep the dreams of our forefathers and foremothers alive for generations yet unborn and to teach a new generation how to dream those dreams that will create for them a glorious “this moment” in their own lives and experiences.
Rev. Dr. Bertha Borum is pastor of St. John’s Transformation Baptist Church in Baltimore.