By Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma
IN CELEBRATION OF DR. MARTIN L. KING, JR’S DAY 2022, I decided to reflect on my long safari or journey as an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the United States of America (USA) via Europe, where I spent twelve years, studying and working, from Italy to England, France, and Germany. But I am afraid My safari is a long story that I cannot narrate here. Readers may refer to my memoir-travelogue, Global Safari: Checking In and Checking Out in Pursuit of World Wisdoms, the American Dream, and Cosmocitizenship (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015). My focus is on what made that safari feasible, that is, hope, my “Audacity of Hope” (2006), so to speak. Spero, Ergo Sum (in Latin) is my gospel of hope, so to speak. Inarguably, hope is what King’s dream is all about. Hope was also what made ‘the Obama phenom’ possible.
Change, unity, and hope were key themes in Obama’s extraordinary presidential campaign in 2007-2008 that culminated in his two-term history-making presidency. ‘Hope’ is what led Obama, whose father was from Kenya, to achieve King’s Dream, one that is deeply rooted into the American Dream. Hope is about a better future. Inarguably, no one represents that future better than the historically oppressed people, immigrants, the ethnic and other minorities, the poor, the sick with preexisting conditions, the forgotten, and above all, the young people, whose future is logically and chronologically longer than the old ones’. Believe it or not, it was precisely the idea of change, American Dream, and hope as represented by Obama’s presidency that also influenced my decision to become a US citizen in 2012. As a new citizen whose global safari seems to have reached a final destination, I too, have the audacity to hope and dream. The Audacity of Hope is not simply Obama’s 2006 bestselling book title. The audacity to hope is not simply the favorite topic of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial homilies in Chicago. Hope is a theological virtue. It is crucial to the human condition and experience. Like freedom – not necessarily radical freedom à la Jean-Paul Sartre (1956) – hope is human and as such it is also quintessential to the American Dream and promise. Like a Global Positioning System (GPS), hope is our compass and guide to “A Promised Land” (Obama 2021). It is in this sense that we could, to some extent, understand the following statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson, XXXVIth President of the United States (1963-1969):
“For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.” Is a new world coming? We welcome it – and we will bend it to the hopes of man” (From The President’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1965).
Hope is the raison d’être of my long safari. Hope is what allowed me to leave my country for Europe and for the United States, my kind of new and hopefully free world. Hope is what made me believe that I could be something more than a manovale comune or blue color worker in Italy, despite my terminal degree; or a Werkstudent (student worker) in Germany. Hope is what allowed me to change my nonimmigrant and alien status to a permanent resident and citizen of the United States of America.
Hope is my daily bread, my bed, my seat, my seatbelt, my vehicle, and my GPS. This is so true that in addition to, or maybe as an alternative to the famous and memorable Cartesian quote “cogito, ergo sum,” or “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes), I dare also make another equally philosophical and theological statement, i.e., spero, ergo sum, or I hope, therefore, I am. I am not only a Cartesian “thinking thing” or “res cogitans,” in Latin. I am also a “hoping thing“ or res sperans, in Latin. We are also hoping beings.
As I stated in Obamaenon (Gbotokuma 2011), our hope includes a great number of different things, for example: hope for change in the face of the status quo, even if we tend to fear change; hope in the face of despair; hope for accessible and affordable health care in the face of supposedly incurable diseases; hope for cure and healing in the face of epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19; hope for reforms on Wall Street, shared prosperity, and economic opportunity in the face of hardships on Main Street and our streets, and in the face of greed and individualism in our winners-take-all society; hope for free and fair trade in the face of “junglobalization” or savage globalization; hope for – to use some of President Obama’s speech titles – “A Just and Lasting Peace” in the face of wars, terrorism, and underdevelopment; hope for “A More Perfect Union,” for “A World that Stands as One,” for “A New Beginning,” and for a common ground in the face of divisions, new apartheids, mutual suspicions, and clashes of civilizations; hope for reason in the face of anger and other negative emotions; hope for cosmocitizenship in the face of negative and ill-defined nationalisms and patriotisms; hope for a greater dialogue with, and understanding of the world beyond our borders and political parties; hope for moral leadership; hope for confidence and courage in the face of fear and self-doubt; hope for equal opportunity in the face of racism, sexism, and ageism; hope for well-being and full-being in the face of misfortune and indignities; hope for a better world where human rights are right and the golden rule is the rule, even for those who have no gold; hope for new hopes; hope in the honest pursuit of happiness; hope for the hopeless; hope for better days today, tomorrow, and pourquoi pas, in saecula saeculorum, or forever and ever. In a nutshell, the critical times that humanity is experiencing call for hope and big dreams. Let us share the American Dream because a shared dream become reality.
Happy MLK Day!
Happy New Year 2022!
Happy New U!
Happy New and more Democratic USA!
Happy New, COVID-Free and Better World!
Please remember to mask u, get vaccinated and boosted.
About the author
Dr. Zekeh Gbotokuma is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morgan State University. He is also the founder of Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD) and one of Afrimpact Magazine’s Influential People Awards 2021 recipients (A.I.M. AWARDS 2021). His publications include, among others, Global Safari (2015); Democracy and Demographics in the USA (2020 Paperback: https://amzn.to/2KbcOUV eBook: https://amzn.to/35BsCbN), and Obamanomics and Francisconomics (Forthcoming, Europe Books 2022).
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