Yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning (my favorite Sunday morning news show) Tavis Smiley did a commentary on how little progress we as a nation and a society have made toward fulfilling the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently enunciated back in 1963.
Yes, we’ve made some progress. We’ve elected a black man to be our President. However, elevating one man, no matter how high, means little if the majority of African Americans are living in poverty, are less likely to get an advanced degree and are proportionally more likely to be victimized by the criminal system.
On the same show Warren Buffett admitted that he has been as successful as he has been because he had the good fortune to be born a white male. If he’d been born with exactly the same intelligence and drive but he’d been a woman or a black man, he would not be in the position he is in now.
There will always be those who have more opportunities and advantages. We won’t, nor should we, hold back someone simply because they were born into fortunate circumstances. What we must do is make certain that doors are not closed on those who are born into challenging circumstances and have neither opportunity nor advantages but have ideas and a willingness to apply themselves. That is the American dream after all – that anyone can become rich, powerful, successful if they work hard enough. Only when a person can excel based purely on ability, regardless of race or gender, will we have achieved the equality which Martin Luther King, Jr. fervently aspired to and gave his life for. Only when we unite to end prejudice will we realize the full potential of all our citizens. We must be able to assure every man, woman and child that they have the same opportunities as anyone else. Then we can start to realize the dream of the man we celebrate today.
Think of the ways we have progressed since 1963 – cell phones, satellites, FAX machines, email, computers, TVs, DVDs, digital camera, laser projectors, hybrid cars, jet airplanes and on and on. Despite enormous achievements in technology, we have made little social progress. We need to make one as important as the other. If we can put a (white)man on the moon, we can eliminate the hurdles that keep too many mired in hopelessness.