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‘… A network of mutuality’

Barack Obama | 10/25/2011, 2:38 p.m.

They’ll say any challenges to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.

But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.  

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another.

He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.

This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right.

We will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.

Excerpted from President Barack Obama’s speech at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.