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Tavis Smiley On Obama And MLK's Legacy

7:07 AM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
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U.S. President Barack Obama reaches out to his family members as they arrive for the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial on the National Mall October 16, 2011 in Washington, DC. Courtesy Getty Images.
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  • (CBS News) Monday's ceremonial presidential inauguration falls on a most auspicious day, in the view of our contributor Tavis Smiley:

    Barack Hussein Obama will be sworn in as president tomorrow for a second term, on the holiday honoring the person I have long regarded as the greatest American this nation has ever produced. Obama will be in the foreground, but Martin Luther King, Jr. is the backdrop.

    I've heard people exclaim that President Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream.

    Well, not exactly.

    Obama might be a good down payment, but he is not the fulfillment of King's dream. We're still a long way away from that.

    The interrelated triple threat of poverty, militarism and racism that King talked about still looms large in a yet-deeply-divided America.

    In the spirit of MLK, it's time for President Obama to deliver a major policy speech on the eradication of poverty in America. He ought to tell us how the richest nation in the history of the world is going to confront the scourge of poverty.

    In the spirit of MLK, President Obama should rethink the random use of his favorite weapon - the unmanned aerial vehicle, better known as "drones," which have killed too many innocent women and children.

    In the spirit of MLK, President Obama should not continue to feel boxed in by his blackness, but feel liberated in a second term to find ways to push back on the most intractable issue in America -- racism.

    The president wants to channel King so badly that he's decided to use Dr. King's Bible at the inauguration ceremony tomorrow.

    Obama is a politician, and a pretty good one, but King was a prophet. And while I can appreciate the president's fascination with King's legacy of unarmed truth and unconditional love, I'm feeling some sort of way about King being used symbolically for public pomp and circumstance, but disregarded substantively when it comes to public policy.

    Our future as a nation depends on how seriously we take the legacy of Dr. King: Justice for all, service to others, and a love that liberates people.

    For all the dysfunction that our country is exhibiting at the moment, Dr. King reminds us that the time is always ripe to do right. We should never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person is at stake.

    Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

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