Rob Horowitz: King, Obama + Citizen Activism
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
As President Obama said in referring to the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up that day and so many other days—often at the risk of serious injury and even death, “Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn't have to; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
The source of change
The tremendous accomplishments of the civil rights movement including the adoption of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, according to the President, was as much, if not more, due to the power of effective and active citizens stepping up to their responsibilities’ as it was the leadership and speech-making of Martin Luther King.
President Obama reminds us that lasting and important changes in our democracy nearly always come from the bottom up. “Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day—that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship…,"Obama remarked.
In other words, at the end of the day, it is still up to us. Effective citizen action that seeks common ground and is not imprisoned by rigid ideology and rabid partisanship is the key to breaking Congressional gridlock and solving our nation’s problems. That is the most critical takeaway from President Obama’s eloquent and thoughtful speech-a speech that matched the historical moment.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.
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