Thursday, August 28, 2008


Forty-five years ago today, as Barack Obama prepares to make history by accepting the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, a prophet for our time was given to us who held up a mirror in which we could see ourselves, our goodness, our weaknesses, and our ugliness.

Forty years ago, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last major speech, a speech that many (myself included) consider prophetic.

The next day, April 4, 1968, Rev. King was murdered in Memphis, Tennesee by James Earl Ray.

NY Senator Robert Francis Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination in Indianapolis, IN, when word of King's murder arose.

Less than six months later, he, too, would be dead.

In a sermon called "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution" given at the National Cathedral in Washington less than a week before he was killed, Rev. King presented us with his last moral challenge, a challenge to which Americans have not yet risen.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution...

We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty.

In the space of five years, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were taken from us. JFK was an anti-Communist cold-warrier who grew in office to be the kind of President who could see the need for civil rights and an end to an unjust war; King was a prophet and a warrior for peace -- America's Gandhi -- who stood racial stereotypes on their head and brought people together; Bobby was the hope of a new generation of Americans. When they died, the sixties died, and hope was, for many Americans, shattered. But the hope never died, and lives today.

It is only my opinion -- one man's opinion, one imperfect, idealistic man's opinion -- but I believe that in many ways Barack Obama embodies the charisma and judgment of JFK, the hope and determination of MLK, and the Heart and judgement of RFK. And tonight, a significant portion of the American people are prepared to nominate him as their political leader.

May God keep him safe from the rest.

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