When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech on August 28, 1963, “Negroes” were second-class citizens in America: often denied the right to vote, denied the right to marry outside “their race” in most parts of the nation, deemed inferior to whites, consigned to the most menial of jobs, denied access to the tennis courts and golf courses of our nation, not allowed to obtain lodging in most hotels and motels, and otherwise constrained in nearly every facet of American life, solely because of skin color. In Dr. King’s words, “the Negro . . . finds himself an exile in his own land.”
At the time of Dr. King’s “dream” that his four little children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Sen. Barack Obama — a man whose mother was white and whose father was black — was just two years old.
Although he often said that he might not be with us when we got to the “Promised Land” of full freedom, Dr. King gave the country that he loved so much an assignment. Telling us that his dream was “deeply rooted in the American dream,” Dr. King urged America to “rise up and live out the true meaning of your creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
In the fullness of time, the American people have done precisely what Dr. King urged us to do: We have worked diligently to create a nation in which skin color is not a barrier to opportunity.
All Americans owe a debt to Martin Luther King Jr. It was his “dream” that altered America’s approach to race and profoundly changed our nation from one with different levels of citizenship for blacks and for whites to one in which equality is the law and “colorblindness” remains the national objective, despite the intrusion of “diversity” pursuits at all levels of our lives.
And, yet, despite our progress, there is one issue that stands in the way of our completely fulfilling King’s dream; and that is race-based affirmative-action preferences. On this issue, Sen. Obama has cast his lot with those who seek to ignore America’s racial progress and who, instead, prefer to sustain race and ethnic preferences that impede our progress.