We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.


Print Print
John Eyster
Sunday, January 20, 2013


I think it is VERY significant that the PUBLIC CELEBRATION of the 2nd Inauguration of Barack Obama as President of our USA comes on our national MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. holiday. The symbolism of the first African-American president of our USA taking the presidential oath of office for the 2nd time on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is PROFOUND!

Fulfilling the mandate of our US Constitution that a term of a US President ends at NOON on the 20th of January, Barack Obama will be sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in a private ceremony at The White House today. TOMORROW will be the PUBLIC CELEBRATION with Barack Obama taking the presidential oath IN PUBLIC and delivering his 2nd Inaugural Address.

I look forward to hearing President Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Address with the audacity of HOPE that it will articulate a CLEAR identification of his GOALS for this 2nd term complemented by STRONG COMMITMENT to his GOALS. I am one of the observers of President Obamas 1st term that was VERY DISappointed at what I considered WEAKNESS in fighting for HIS GOALS. I am HOPEFUL for this 2nd term. Are YOU?

I was helpfully informed with additional perspective by William Casey King’s OpEd column published by the Washington Post last Friday (1/18), “In Obama’s White House, ambition looks a little different.”

Dr. King is the Executive Director of Yale University’s Center for Analytical Sciences. He wrote “Ambition, A History: From Vice To Virture.”

Dr. King begins his assessment of Barack Obama’s “ambition” asserting, “Ambition is a strong component of the American character. From rags to riches, log house to White House, community organizer to commander in chief, nowhere is this idea more pronounced than in the American presidency. But the presidency has a complicated relationship with ambition. It takes enormous ambition to win the job, but the position is structured to restrain its expression.

“President Obama is well acquainted with these constraints. You can hear it when says he won’t have another debate with Congress about raising the debt limit. Or when he pushes for “common sense” gun-control measures that an “overwhelming majority of Americans agree with” — but that are possible only if Congress passes them.”

Dr. King’s discussion persuasively highlights the framework of “ambition” in the structure of our American government. He continues to analyze Obama’s style based on his experience as a constitutional scholar who would seek change through consensus rather than overstepping. In this analysis is the key to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the subsequent frustrations which many persons who voted for Obama, including myself, felt through the first term.

Dr. King does NOT argue for a “stronger” President Obama who oversteps his constitutional authorities to achieve his goals. Rather, he asserts that WE THE PEOPLE of the US must change our expectation of presidential ambition.

He concludes, “Republicans and many Democrats have criticized Obama for being a weak leader, a charge that has stemmed from his inability to fully achieve his lofty legislative goals. But this criticism misunderstands the strength of Obama’s restraint, the courage of his patient belief in compromise.” I am not sure I am convinced that style works in realpolitik. Are YOU?

Since the PUBLIC INAUGURATION CELEBRATION comes on MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY, I was intrigued by the title on Dr. Fredrick Harris’ OpEd column published last Friday, January 18 by the Washington Post, “The Martin Luther King dreams that Obama forgot.” Dr. Harris is professor of political science and the director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of “The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics.”

I was intrigued by Dr. Harris’ distinction between the observation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday When he was growing up in the 1970s in Atlanta — the birthplace of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the city where he is interred.

He reports, “The remembrances took place on April 4, the anniversary of his assassination, not on his January birthday; after all, the King national holiday did not yet exist. And rather than focus on the March on Washington and King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, the city would emphasize his mission and message toward the end of his life. It was less a ritual of collective mourning than a reminder of the fight King was waging: a war against the triple evils of racism, poverty and militarism, reflected in a battle for the rights of low-wage garbage workers in Memphis, a movement against the Vietnam War and, nationally, the hope for a second march on Washington, one that would dramatize the plight of America’s poor.”

Dr. Harris moves on to accuse Barack Obama of “forgetting” the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. continued his leadership to issues of poverty and nonviolence. He reflects, “…it is no small irony that the anti-inequality movement that cleared the path for Obama’s presidency would find its supposed personification in a chief executive who has spoken less about poverty and race than any Democratic president in a generation. And that the Baptist preacher from Georgia who stood for nonviolence would never have condoned the militaristic actions of a president whose escalated use of drone warfare kills innocents around the world.”

Dr. Harris reminds us that Dr. King preached at the Washington national Cathedral on Sunday, March 31, 1968 - the Sunday before his assassination on Thursday, April 4, 1968. The sermon was entitled, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He asserts that it is no small irony that the anti-inequality movement that cleared the path for Obama’s presidency would find its supposed personification in a chief executive who has spoken less about poverty and race than any Democratic president in a generation. And that the Baptist preacher from Georgia who stood for nonviolence would never have condoned the militaristic actions of a president whose escalated use of drone warfare kills innocents around the world.

He quote King’s sermon on Sunday, March 31, 1968, “We are coming to demand that the government addresses itself to the problem of poverty. It is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.” Continuing to identify what he believes to be the DREAMS of MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. that President Barack Obama has fogotten, he reflects, “In his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln spoke of the need to ‘bind up the nation’s wounds’ after the Civil War. And though the Obama presidency has helped mend the wounds of division, racism continues to fester beneath the surface of American life. A ceremonial recognition of how far the country has come to address the legacy of racism is an important step, but it is not sufficient to remedy the persistence of racial inequality, which we see in stagnant poverty, disparate incarceration rates and educational gaps affecting African Americans.”

He concludes his OpEd column expressing his hope that one day the nation, WE THE PEOPLE of the US, will live up to our creed… FULL THE DREAM! He cites King’s “I have a dream” speech, “The most cherished passages from the ‘I have a dream’ speech convey the spirit of America’s promise and the hope that one day the nation will live up to its creed.” Challenge to BARACK OBAMA and WE THE PEOPLE of US!

Finally, one of the columns I watch for in the Washington Post is “The Fix.” I think YOU will find it very interesting to read the column published in last Friday’s Washington Post “The 10 most famous inaugural addresses” with the citation of the selected INAUGURATION ADDRESSES with incisive informative notes.

My favorite Inaugural Address is Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural – March 4, 1865 which I have frequently cited and quoted when speaking about Abraham Lincoln. Be sure to see Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan’s notes on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Which INAUGURAL ADDRESS is YOUR favorite? WHY?

Add the Washington Post's special feature "The oaths: From Washington to Obama" if you are interested in one of the inaugurations in our US history. Fascinating!

NOW I’ve read the media reports that BARACK OBAMA has been sworn President of the US for the second time privately at The White House. I look forward to the PUBLIC CELEBRATION of the INAUGURATION TOMORROW. Do YOU?

Here we go…

Mr. E.

Last updated: 9:25 am Monday, April 29, 2013

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

Print Print