RiseUp Founder & Publisher: Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D. has another poignant and thoughtful publisher’s note in this weeks edition of her publication.
For the 45 anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech she asks “Where is Americas’ Voice?”.
Hopefully last night’s speech by Barack Obama may have answered her question.
” Where is America’s voice? At critical points in the history of this country, it has, more often than not been resoundingly clear. But, today, it is garbled at best.
While one or more leaders may help define America’s voice, clarify it, and epitomize it with their actions, the voice itself goes beyond a personality or the vocalization of precepts and principles and specific initiatives. The presence and power of America’s voice characterizes ages, codifies eras, creates the culture, and more often than not, foretells the nature of a future society.
We have only to recall a few critical periods in America’s history and the personalities that led us through them—from the Declaration of Independence to the end of the Cold War — to be poignantly, and sometimes painfully, reminded of the great void that exists today.
Where is America’s voice? And if you are able to hear some muffled musings, what is it saying? Are you clear about where we are headed domestically or globally?
Through the work and words of the founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution — John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others — America gained its voice and its course through the end of the eighteenth century was clear.
Throughout the nineteenth century, America’s voice defined the periods from the establishment of the institution of slavery to the Civil War that ended it; the Jim Crow era that began after that war and lingered into the twentieth century until the Civil Rights Movement that fought to end it.
During these various and disparate epoch-making times America’s voice was — for better or worse — represented by Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Strom Thurmond, Lester Maddox, George Wallace, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.
In between those times, World War I was fought to make the world safe for democracy. That was followed by what has been dubbed as the Gilded Age where the rich got richer, the poor poorer. America roared in the twenties, crashed economically in the early thirties, and joined the world to defeat fascism in the forties. And we lived and breathed the Cold War and its remnants for the next nearly fifty years.
We all know these seminal historical events and the leaders that brought us through them: Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
During any of these periods, America’s voice was very discernible if not always strong. The times seem more definable, the voice clearer, even while we lived them.
Where is America’s voice today? Where are the political and philosophical giants that represent us?
With the current war on terrorism, one might say that America’s voice is still one that proclaims democracy and individual freedom as paramount at home and abroad. But that voice seems muffled by all the static and noise that has emerged around the reasons for the preemptive strike against Iraq.
Where is America’s voice? What is it saying to us here at home? What is the message conveyed abroad?
As Dr. King stepped to the podium to give his “I Have a Dream” speech, he was introduced to the crowd gathered along the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial as the “moral leader” of our nation. After the speech, commentators called him the “voice of America’s conscience.” He was for that seminal period in America’s history.
There is no one leader — no one person — that today can be called the voice of America’s conscience.
More importantly, who are the leaders that will help America find its voice? It is not just left to the historians. We can shape it if we dare. Or we can sit idly by, and watch as we stumble into the future.”