BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: The inauguration takes place the day after the nation honors Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and religious leaders are among those who see ties between Obama’s election and King’s vision for America. Kim Lawton has a special report.

KIM LAWTON: As they prepared for inaugural festivities, President-elect Barack Obama and his family visited the Lincoln Memorial this week, evoking more memories of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Barack Obama

LAWTON: It was on the 45th anniversary of that speech that Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president. He noted that, given the situation in 1963, the crowd could have expected to hear King speak in anger, with the frustration of dreams deferred.

BARACK OBAMA (in speech): But what the people heard instead, people of every creed and color, from every walk of life, is that in America our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one.

LAWTON: In this historic week, connections between Obama and King are inevitable. Many Americans across racial and religious lines see Obama’s inauguration as one key fulfillment of King’s dream.

Reverend DONNA JONES (Senior Pastor, Cookman United Methodist Church): For this bi-racial guy with an immigrant father, with roots in community organizing, with an African American wife and two black kids to move into the White House — what kind of country we have today that that can happen is such a testament of hope and a testament to the sacrifice of Martin Luther King.

LAWTON: Philadelphia United Methodist pastor Donna Jones says Obama’s election has ignited a new sense of optimism in her community and in communities across the country.

Rev. JONES: What this campaign has done in its entirety, and this is beyond Barack Obama, is it let us know that the process can work to effect change, but it didn’t necessarily change anything.

LAWTON: And, indeed, amid all the talk of hope, some religious leaders are also cautioning that much work still needs to be done before King’s full social vision may be realized.

Professor HAROLD DEAN TRULEAR (Howard University Divinity School and President, GLOBE Community Ministries): We don't want to come to the conclusion that because Obama is now the president we're going to have this sort of panacea-existence both in the United States and with respect to our position in the world.

LAWTON: Dreams aren’t always easy in this North Philadelphia neighborhood, where Jones is senior pastor at Cookman United Methodist Church. It’s an area plagued by drugs, prostitution, and economic distress. Cookman has developed a host of social programs to try to deal with the problems. The church has a special focus on at-risk youth. They run an after-school program and teen lounge where kids can hang out, take refuge from the streets, and get counseling and homework help, and Cookman also has a school for chronically truant youth that uses a home-school curriculum. The students meet at the church every day for classes.

Donna Jones

Rev. JONES: I believe that Jesus was involved in social service. He went around healing. He healed a lot of people. He healed before he went out with the gospel message. So it’s an expression of Christ’s love, and whether people even accept Jesus Christ or not, his love should be offered.

LAWTON: She also believes the programs fit into Martin Luther King’s vision of what he called “the beloved community,” a term he learned from earlier theologians. It’s an inclusive vision of brotherhood and sisterhood, where all people share in the wealth of the nation, and justice and peace prevail. A place, Jones says, where all God’s children have enough, and nobody has too little.

Rev. JONES: That’s the legacy of King, first putting out the reality of the beloved community, again, all of that’s very biblical, but also putting out the hope and the encouragement to say you know what, you can do something to help create that, whatever the something is.

LAWTON: Students at Cookman got excited about Obama’s campaign, and several were part of a get-out-the vote project. His election means a lot to them.

Zuleka Silveira

ZULEIKA SILVERA (Student): I ain’t going to lie, I didn’t think he was going to win. But I’m like, wow, we really did it. It really felt like we made a change, like we got people to go out there and vote, and I’m, like, we made a change. We really did.

KHAREEM COLEY: You could do anything if you put your mind to it. That’s what that message really gave me.

Prof. TRULEAR: They have the sense that they too can become president. I mean, part of the thing with Obama is that it's not just that he's an African American, but he's also common. He cut his teeth, even as a Harvard-trained lawyer he cut his teeth working in neighborhoods like this in the South Side of Chicago.

LAWTON: Howard University theology professor Harold Dean Trulear is president of GLOBE Community Ministries, a faith-based group that offers support to youth programs, including those at Cookman. He says Obama’s election will have a profound impact on coming generations.

Prof. TRULEAR: My daughter sends me a text message next morning, it says, “Dad, I have a black president.” That won't be an unusual thing for her. Those kinds of things, I think, give my generation a lot of hope, and the only nagging thing is we just don't want to lose sight of where we've come from.

LAWTON: It’s easy to forget, he says, that King’s vision was about more than race.

Prof. TRULEAR: Most people, when they refer to King's dream for America, they go back to 1963, and they refer to the “I Have a Dream” speech, which of course is about racial justice and racial equality. But five years, later when King is assassinated, his dream is more about economic injustice and working with poor people. He talked about economic justice, he talked about militarism, war and peace, and he talked about racial justice.


LAWTON: Just as King led his grassroots movement from churches, Trulear says congregations of today still have the responsibility to lobby for broad social change no matter who is president.

Prof. TRULEAR: A lot of our religion, whether it's the television prosperity gospel or whether it's what you hear in a regular mainline church, has more to do with affirming who we are than challenging us at our root. I think we've lost sight of the prophetic dimension of the faith tradition.

BARACK OBAMA : What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity to hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

LAWTON: Pastor Jones says seeing the success of Obama’s grassroots effort gives veteran activists like herself renewed motivation to keep working toward King’s vision.

Rev. JONES: For our generation, I believe it was a sense of confirmation that this stuff of democratic renewal and public policy advocacy and community organizing really does work.  And I think that we needed to see that, because we were getting really cynical.

LAWTON: She says many faith-based activists had begun to feel like the children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness in the 40 years since King’s death. Obama’s election changed that.

Rev. JONES: I would have said “not my lifetime.” Now I don’t have anything that I will say “not in my lifetime.” So that means beloved community could happen in my lifetime. For King to hear that in heaven he’s probably, like, “All right. They’re coming out of the wilderness.”

BARACK OBAMA:  The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

Professor Truelar

LAWTON: Ultimately, Trulear believes, there is a spiritual message that Martin Luther King preached as well — the true meaning of hope.

Prof. TRULEAR: We say I hope it doesn't rain. I hope the Eagles win the football game. I hope I hit the lottery. It's more like a wish that's not grounded in any kind of reality — it may happen, it may not, I have no control over it. In the biblical sense of the term, hope is a very, very fixed reality. It means that I have an expectation that something is going to be different than the way it is now.

LAWTON: Obama’s election, he says, has tapped into that deep place of hope.

Prof. TRULEAR: There really is an expectation in this country that things are going to be different. There really is an expectation around the planet that things are going to be different. Whether those hopes are materialized or not is a different issue and nobody really wants to even think about that right now. But there's a real sense that there is going to be a change, and a real sense that people are going to be disappointed if there's not a real, concrete change.

LAWTON: I’m Kim Lawton in North Philadelphia.

Martin Luther King’s Dream and Obama

Connections between Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. are inevitable. Some see the presidential inauguration as a testament to the sacrifice of Reverend King and a as powerful expression of hope.

  • Rev.Dr. H.T. Lara

    I am thankful President-elect Obama election is taking shape and this is GOD inspired blessing and no man cannot block whathas so ordered and from now on there will be a change in America and in the whole wide World and this will all cultures, Religions, and mankind and this is recorded in the Bible.

  • Ruth

    I think he would have VERY mixed emotions.
    1. MLK was a Republican and would be sad to see the welfare society taking over America.
    2. MLK wanted rights for all Americans and seeing Obama elected shows movement in almost the right direction.
    3. MLK wanted a “color blind” world, unfortunately very little about this election has been color blind. I have seen colors smashed and colors idealized, I have NOT seen color blind.
    4. MLK wanted equality for all. Equality includes men and women of ALL colors not any one or two colors. We are American we are not Euro-American, Italian- American, Asian- American, African- American, or Jamaican, Swedish or any other American we are all in the same country.. we are all AMERICAN, I think he would be extremely sad in seeing how his dream has been perverted by society today.
    MLK was a great man.. I pray in the future those who have made blind comparisons see some truth behind their zealotry and once again put America ( all of America ) first.

  • Janet Horbas

    I am thrilled at the moment of history being made. His cool demeanor at all times helps to give the people a sense of security. I pray for him and his family for protection and that He will seek his wisdom from the Lord.

  • Antoinette Smith

    I was very touched and moved by Rev. Jones and Professor Harold Turlear comments. God’s word promises us that it would not return void. I believe with the presidency of Obama it is and is was bringing to past a complete circle. A circle that started with Dr.King’s speech and the election of Barack Obama. A circle is the sign of compeletion. It can only get better if we as a people stand together.

  • Aimal Aziz

    Martin Luther King’s Dream and Obama
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    These are the words Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers dreamed of a new kind of nation where not churches or tyrant Kings but “The People” have absolute power. They laid down the foundation of a perfect Union where anyone can do anything, if they put their mind into it. The Union, however, was far from being perfect. A significant number of people being shipped from Africa against their will, remained deprived from even being called ‘men’. They were, and remained, properties for a long time.
    In 1858 a relatively unknown lawyer from Illinois, stood up in the State House of Representative and deliver his famous “House Divided” speech which marked the beginning of the end of slavery. Abraham Lincoln called the nation to recognize the reality that “this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free”. He viewed slavery as an evil institution and fought against it until he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, as President, ending slavery once and for all. But that wasn’t the end, bigotry and racism continued in public form. ‘Separate but equal’ was the law of land which brought the famous Supreme Court ruling “Brown vs. Broad of Education”. Dr. King was only 26 when he stepped in, playing his role of making a memorable history. King called upon the government to let children of slaves cash their check that was given to them almost a century ago, check of freedom, of liberty and equality. He was told that white and black can never get along and that racism will never end. He rejected that notion and proclaimed: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
    Although, America and the world watched the historic day on January 20th when the first black president took office, it wasn’t Barack Obama’s race that gave him the victory. His critics love to point out to the affirmative action or so called “white guilt” to taint this extraordinary achievement- the American achievement. As a matter of fact, history teaches otherwise. If he ran as a black candidate, he would have never won. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton are two important examples who ran as black candidates and lost miserably. Barack Obama ran as a progressive Democrat who happened to be a black man. Obama early on recognized the nations’ thirst for unity and hunger for change; and he offered himself to be that candidate. He inspired the nation with his extraordinary rhetoric skill to hope again. He asked us to hope in the face of difficulties and hope in face of uncertainties. He described it as “the audacity of hope”. Nonetheless, it is the work of generations before us, like struggles of abolitionists, heroic stand of Rosa Park, dream of Dr. King and so many other forgotten heroes that propelled Obama to the Presidency of the United States.
    Now this, in no way, means that the struggle is over or the dream has been fulfilled. Bigotry, racism, hate, antipathy against those who do not look like us, speak like us and most importantly worship like us still exist in large part. Former Governor Mitt Romney, for example, was called the follower of a cult religion and was forced to defend his LDS faith by his famous speech “Faith in America”. People publicly declared that they will not vote for Obama because “he is a Muslim”. Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell raised his concerns and rejected such antipathies by saying, “What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? This is not the way we should be doing it in America.” We did elect the first African American as our President. It is something all Americans should be proud of. But that is not the end; it is a big step towards a more perfect Union that our founding fathers envisioned over two centuries ago.


    I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Inaugural festivities of President Barack Obama. My plane from Atlanta was packed with people attending the celebration. Black and white all smiles about what we hope to be able to witness. I was even more fortunate to find my self standing on the curb of the Parade route. I can tell you that I have never been more proud to be an American and also an African American. I have heard people discussing how different the transfer of power is in the United States. It is very different that it is in some other countries. Ours is a peaceful transfer. I thought about that as I was able to actually stand in the street waiting on the parade to reach us. To be able to celebrate and rejoice as we installed our new President. To be able to stand close enough to actually see his face as well as the faces of his family as his car went by. It was as incredible experience. One that I will not soon forget! Martin Luther King would have been proud to see the country unite for this joyous occasion. One of his hopes was that one day Blacks and Whites would be able to join hands and unite. We did unite. We joined symbolic hands as we cast our votes and elected Barack Hussein Obama as our nation’s 44th President and the first African American.

    Our nation is going through one of the toughest times that I have seen in my 54 years.
    As Dr. Trulear defines hope in the biblical sense. Our election of President Obama is a symbol of hope for our country and hope for the rest of the world. He believes that he can make a difference so he has set out on a journey to try and make changes that will hopefully benefit the nation and the world as a whole.

    I personally am hopeful. I pray that things can start to move forward in our country. I pray that things get better soon as I find myself possibly joining the ranks of the thousands of unemployed Americans. Things are really hard and President Obama cannot get the country back on track alone. As Christians we know where our strength really comes from. We have to lean on our faith and belief that GOD will deliver us from this horror that man had brought on him self.

    Kudos to Reverend Jones and the Cookman United Methodist Church for their hard work
    with the at risk youth that reside in the area. The youth of America can be among the
    largest benefactors of what the election of President Obama represents. He represents
    what hard work and determination can do. I look an President Obama’s life as a culmination of what can happen when you make good choices. Choices in how you conduct yourself, who you associate with, where you go to school, down to who you choose as a mate. These choices can impact your life greatly. A wrong choice in any one of these categories can derail any hopes that you may have for a bright and promising

    What we can do as a people, all people at this point in time is, do our best and be our best.

    Congratulations to President Obama, Reverend Donna Jones and Dr. Harold Dean Trulear; you do the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proud. Keep up the GREAT work.

  • kurwa

    what i can say its Gods will and now is the time “sure its over about racism time”

  • butterfly


  • ivett

    I really think Obama really represents Martin Luther King !

  • Whisper

    I like how Obama represents Martin Luther King!

  • ivet

    I hope Obama really represents Martin Luther King !!

  • molete

    god is always faithful in his prophetic words ,no matter how long the altimate answer comes to manifestation praise god.

  • Aboubacar Touré

    I is important to highlight that the election of Obama is just an aspect of King’s dream that has been realized.
    It is the result of King’s speech that his four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
    Despite that I’m malian, I’m proud of american democracy and I encourage other countries around the world to do as USA did so that they can live peacefully for the betterment of the nations.

  • jevon battles

    ITHINK that its a great idea thet obama was elected and history has been made but is he here for the better or the worse.yes the econemy is bad and it is time for a change but the way i sea it is were is the change.