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Obama's promised land?

Jesse L. Jackson Sr. | 8/27/2008, 6:10 a.m.

Obama's promised land?

I remember the hot summer of ’63. I was 22 years old, leading demonstrations in Greensboro, N.C., to open up access to public facilities — restaurants, movie theaters, all those establishments that had been closed to blacks. Because we were disturbing the peace, as defined by Jim Crow, I went to jail.

We filled jails across the South that summer, but our enthusiasm was building toward something bigger. Late in August, all roads led to Washington for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I asked my football coach if I could miss a few days of practice because I knew I had to be there.

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaimed his dream of equality for our nation. He stood in the shadow of President Lincoln, the original emancipator, and dreamed of a day when a man would be judged by his character, not the color of his skin; a day when America would finally fulfill her broken promise of equality and freedom to all her citizens. The size of the crowd and the spirit of the moment were overwhelming. Dr. King did not disappoint.

Now, on the 45th anniversary of this historic speech, Barack Obama will take a monumental step toward fulfilling the Dream and mending the broken promise when he accepts the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. I have the same feeling now that I had standing in that crowd 45 years ago, listening to those words of challenge and inspiration from Dr. King.

Barack brings hope. Barack brings the promise of change. He brings a broad vision for making America better. He is smart, capable, a man of integrity. He is a proven fighter for what is right, with a message of reconciliation and peace. He has the support of an intelligent and accomplished wife, Michelle. His nomination is a transformative moment in American history, an indication that the Dream can be realized and the promise fulfilled.

In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and others fought to have black delegates from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party seated with the all-white Mississippi delegation at the Democratic convention. It was an effort to introduce broader representation into the party and was initially rejected. The party tried to protect the old order, but the new order would not be denied.

In 2008, we will witness an African American accepting the party’s nomination. During the primary season, we witnessed men across the country cast their votes for a woman. Whites supported a black candidate in massive numbers. America has changed. America has become better.

But America is at a turning point. We continue to pursue a war that is producing needless deaths, draining us of our financial resources and robbing us of our moral authority. Our national infrastructure crumbles and we fail to make the investment necessary to fix it. We are failing our youth by letting our educational system deteriorate and responding by expanding our prison system: second-class schools, first-class jails.