Honoring MLK, Jr. Calls to Mind President Obama’s Betrayal

As we prepare to honor the birthday of the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I recall an interview Dr. King gave in 1968, in which he suggested that an African-American (“Negro” was then the commonly used term) would one day become President of the United States. Dr. King also suggested it could well occur within the next 28 years. In the late 1960s, that latter prediction seemed rather an audacious one, with the Civil Rights Movement in full swing and de facto racial segregation a way of life for many Americans.

It was in 1996 that General Colin Powell (enjoying a wave of popularity following his successful prosecution of the war to liberate Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion) explored a run for the U.S. presidency; and many well-placed individuals encouraged him to make such a run. Had he done so, he may well have been our nation’s forty-third president, and the first African-American elected to the office — exactly 28 years from when Dr. King made his audacious prediction.

As it turned out, America’s first African-American president was elected in 2008, and Barack Obama’s achievement was greeted by America, indeed the world, as a momentous coming of age for a great nation, the ultimate step away from a history of racial animus. Even for those who didn’t vote for him, Mr. Obama’s election was a moment to celebrate our separation from the past with hope for the future — a hope squandered, ironically, by Mr. Obama himself.

The President’s recent lamentation over what he sees as America’s indelible racism is among the latest in eight years of politically motivated, racially charged decisions, statements and policy pursuits. How sad, that in the waning days of his presidency, Mr. Obama’s public comments on race remain an exercise in bigotry. His ongoing failure to encourage racial healing and, instead, to foment racial division is perhaps the most basic of his many betrayals. It cuts to the heart of what his election in 2008 symbolized, the hope and promise that characterized his rise to political prominence, betrayed by the very man in whom a great nation placed its trust.

It should come as no wonder that, when offered a chance to repudiate Mr. Obama’s legacy in the 2016 election, American voters did so, and chose to elect the most unorthodox presidential candidate in perhaps all of American history. Mr. Obama failed miserably to bring about the change he promised and America wanted. Perhaps Donald Trump will be better at delivering on his promises.

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