As I sat in my home, safe and secure, and watched President Barack Obama's second inauguration, which also occured on the day set aside to recognize Martin Luther King Jr, I learned five things:
- King's decision to expand his civil rights struggle to encompass the disenfranchised poor, whatever their race, creed, or color, was perhaps his most significant contribution to the health and welfare of America and the world. The President's inauguration, certainly the most ethnically and racially diversified inauguration in American history, bore clear and eloquent testimony to King's original vision.
- It is difficult and dangerous to speak of religious authority in this country, but Jesus's social gospel, which King rejuvenated and restored to its original purpose, continues to provide the backbone for much social change in America. Those teachings have provided many of our citizens with the foresight and endurance to arrive at this moment: the second inauguration of Barack Obama.
- The very cornerstone of that social gospel, and the core of King's teaching, nonviolence, was not once uttered on the day given to celebrate both our President and the man, Martin Luther King, Jr., whose work cleared the way for our President to do his work. But this is because elected officials in this country cannot utter or make reference to that dangerous idea if they hope to run a successful campaign. (It also occurred to me that currently there is no one in this country, elected or not, who occupies the national spotlight as King did and continually reminds us of the deep and essential civility of nonviolence.)
- Kelly Clarkson's slightly melancholy interpretation of "America the Beautiful," in the face of the enormous human sacrifice that led to Obama standing in front of the Capitol for the second time, seemed preternaturally correct.
- And as the great freedom-fighter for Tibet, Tenzin Tsundue, reminds us in the interview conducted by The TEXT Program at the University of Arkansas, and excerpted below, many Tibetans currently base their struggle on nonviolence, the major component of King's social and political strategy. All of these forces converged today on Washington, DC, and our country is the better for having hosted, however briefly, those vital energies.