On 50th ‘Dream’ Anniversary, Obama Seeks MLK Moment

A President who has more often avoided talk of race prepares to step into Martin Luther King Jr.'s shadow

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Pete Marovich / Getty Images

People from across the globe arrive at the National Mall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on Aug. 24, 2013

It will be a moment that perhaps even Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t have dreamed.

Fifty years to the day after King’s historic “I have a dream” address, President Barack Obama on Wednesday will stand in the same place the civil rights icon stood at the Lincoln Memorial as he commemorates the 1963 March on Washington. For the nation’s first black President, it comes at a moment in time when King’s dream is at once tantalizingly close yet troublingly far.

When Obama takes the podium on Wednesday afternoon, he will mark the nation’s progress from a country that assaulted peaceful black protesters looking to expand their right to vote, to one that elected him 45 years after King and his followers took to the National Mall.

(MORE: Partisan Politics Creeps Into ‘I Have A Dream’ Anniversary)

More important, aides said, Obama will chart a course for the future, issuing a call to action to keep King’s vision alive even as memories of civil rights struggles fade with time.

“This moment in the continuum in our history is an important one,” Obama senior adviser and confidante Valerie Jarrett tells TIME. “It gives the President a chance to reflect on those 50 years. What that speech meant to him, how far our nation has come, and where he sees our nation going.”

For Obama, that means using the speech to strike a chord with his core demographic — the country’s youth — by encouraging them to keep the struggle alive, even as the finish line approaches.

“Each generation has an obligation to pick up the baton,” Jarrett says. “We want young people to feel a sense of responsibility to take that baton and run with it.”

(PHOTOS: TIME Presents One Dream: The March on Washington)

“The President enjoys the opportunity to motivate young people,” she adds. “[For instance] his speech to his campaign team the day after the last election. He was moved to tears. He said: ‘You all are so much better than we were. The future really rests with you.’”

Obama, Jarrett says, “stands on the shoulders of those who came before him. The next generation will stand on his shoulders. So they can stand taller.”

For a President who has eschewed talking about race at almost every turn during his time in the White House, circumstance has increasingly intervened to force a more direct approach to the subject. Last month, Obama spoke in deeply personal terms about the death of Trayvon Martin and the state of race relations after the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store — that includes me,” Obama said. “There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.”

Those remarks were his most direct attempt to discuss race since a 37-minute speech during the 2008 campaign, in which he set out to allay concerns after the controversy over inflammatory remarks by his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright, and at the time he spoke about the lingering bitterness from the civil rights era.

(COVER STORY: Martin Luther King Jr.: Architect of the 21st Century)

But coupled with the June Supreme Court decision striking down a key component of the Voting Rights Act, the Zimmerman verdict has raised the stakes for the President. Given the momentous nature of the address, Obama has taken on a larger role in drafting his remarks, but aides said he would build on, rather than try to compete with, King’s historic address.

Born a little more than two years before King’s speech and raised almost exclusively outside the racially charged mainland, in Indonesia and Hawaii where the civil rights struggle was far less pervasive, Obama’s relationship with the experience that underpinned King’s speech is something he has long struggled with. That struggle formed much of the basis for his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father. The significance of King’s speech to Obama’s own narrative is expected to be a key component of his remarks.

Jarrett told TIME the speech would fit into the larger arc of his life.

“What the President has always fought for, starting as a community organizer in Chicago,” Jarrett says, “is to make sure this is the land of opportunity for everyone.”

(SPECIAL: One Dream: Explore MLK’s Historic Speech 50 Years Later)

653 comments
ChrisBrown
ChrisBrown

Zeke Miller:  When Time runs a story like this their should either be no comments or someone to monitor them. The subject of the March on Washington was likely to bring out the worst kidiots who use this site to broadcast their sex fantasies. Whether they are "black" or "white" is immaterial, the legacy of Martin Luther King demands a modicum of respect. 

People logging on to trash other commenters and repeat stereotypes, should be removed. What else is the flag system for?


Tzoro1
Tzoro1

@TIME about time Obama became real& he has nothing to lose!

Tager
Tager

As an African American Air Force officer, I must say this thread is a wake up call. Makes me question why I deploy and put my life on the line to protect the very same people who hate me more than the real enemy. Having friends not come home to protect our freedom on American soil, the same freedom used belittle us. 

NationUnderGod
NationUnderGod

OK, let me say that neither men have made this country stronger by any means. This country has been in a constant downward spiral since the time of MLK. All races of people have just went around and around about the issue without nothing but total loss of pride in both. I see all the despair from both sides of this issue. I also am tired of people talking about Trayvon Martin case being brought up like it was not the right decision. Anyone who doesn't see how that was the right verdict is a racist bigot. Quit acting like this was a kid playing outside. Just another thug who everyone wants to make us think differently about him. Then you think your lies are going to make things better, but it don't. If this was any other race than their would have been nothing said about it.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Before I go to bed, a few questions. Why would anyone think I was black? I never said I was. I criticized some white people and that makes me black? I married two white women. Big deal. lots of white guys marry white women.

dryhole
dryhole

Is there anyway to fit a bust of Obama at Rushmore?

MichaelGuy
MichaelGuy

A young mother to be is encouraged by the Democrats in HHS not to get married but take government assistance., thereby depriving children of a father.  Drug addicts are given SSI and welfare benefits by Social Security and other federal agencies dominated by Democrats, so that the addicts can give tax money extorted from the productive to drug gangs.  The children are under educated by Democrats in the NEA, Teachers Unions and Dept. of Education while Democrats block the use of vouchers where children can go to safe schools and get a good education to be competitive in the job market.  Businesses in the cities are fleeing the county or state due to over regulation and too much taxation.  An example would be coal miners and power plant workers who lost their job due to the EPA, another bastion of liberal Democrats. Some business move overseas due to the free trade treaties like Clinton's NAFTA and the Pacific Free Trade Treaty  of President Obama.  If the under-aged, under-educated young men of the cities turn to crime as their perceived only viable way of earning income they will be prosecuted by a Democrat prosecutor, a Democrat judge  Democrat politicians will have driven the indebted cities to bankruptcy.  Democrats  continuously espouse  Chapter X of the 1936 Soviet Constitution and make the same empty promises of the Communist and Bolsheviks of the early 1900's.  And the results are the same : a powerful, almost feudal, reign of politicians and bureaucrats along with poverty for the proletariat.  Maybe this why martin Luther king's "dream" has not been fully achieved?  You voted against it? 

trtexasaf101
trtexasaf101

Where is the photo of the ILLEGAL flag these morons made with obama's face where the stars should be. Sickening!!

paradoxicallyinadequate
paradoxicallyinadequate

Time is a joke.  MLK would take one look at the crony politician that Obama is and be sickened immediately.  MLK was the victim of illegal FBI wiretapping, he opposed so many of the things that this president openly supports through blatant lies and misconceptions.  MLK was a pioneer, an American hero, Obama is a con-man who has no conceptual rationality in regards to leading anyone, let alone the United States.  Sorry Zeke J. Miller, MLK was the real deal, Obama is a cruel joke played on millions of sheep who voted for his lies and incompetence twice.

ChrisBrown
ChrisBrown

It doesn't look like Time pays anyone to monitor this "Swamp" which is full of offensive comments and stereotypes. When I think back to the kinds of blatant hate mongering I saw when I was a kid, it would seem we haven't come a long way, baby.         There was a group who spouted this type of trash talk, they even produced a comic book: White Man. Their name was the American Nazi Party.                                     

reallife
reallife

anything to avoid governing - anything to take the focus away from "his" failure - anything to make the "low informed" forget the part time economy - and the media is all on board - 

what a farse

shameful



juanitarojas
juanitarojas

Obama's character is bankrupt in every way. I will continue judging him only on that, and not his skin color, at all. Obama is indistinguishable from every evil politician before him, like the ones who denied MLK Jr. and other non-KKK members permits to defend themselves.

notsacredh
notsacredh

@Tager, thank you for your service. The military protects all of us. The good and the bad. 

AsJonah
AsJonah

@Tager You are totally right. Why should you especially for a large majority of sick people.

If you have the chance do get out. We unfortunately have a far way to go!

ThomasGrinley
ThomasGrinley

@Tager I for one, sir, do not hate you. I admire you and wish to thank you for your service to OUR country. I will judge you by the content of your character, not the color of your skin. I do the same for OUR President but find him seriously lacking in the leadership department. I dislike the man's politics and I should be allowed to do so without being accused of being racist. I do wish to apologize for the prehistoric attitude of the few cavemen posting absurdities. The real enemy is anyone that would seek to discredit Dr. King's dream rather than help us move forward.

ahandout
ahandout

@Tager  Most of what you have read on this thread is due to two sick individuals posting as 4 people in order to post racist comments and race bait.  I apologize for their insanity, and will do my best to have them removed from this site.  They think that they are funny.  You post shows that their stupid little game should never happen again.

Thank you for your service

ChrisBrown
ChrisBrown

@NationUnderGod It seems like you are the one who can't let the dead rest in peace without insulting them. As for the "downward spiral" since the time of MLK: I'll agree with you that progress has been mixed. The old expression is two steps forward and one step back. At least the Jim Crow laws from my youth have disappeared. I can still remember that "the other side of the tracks" was not just a figure of speech and that the bus depot in Huntington WVa had two separate water fountains and sets of toilets. 

It  took a great struggle to achieve even such minor changes. The US still has far to go.

ChrisBrown
ChrisBrown

@sacredh you are being maligned by a juvenile calling himself "Openmind". If others take him seriously they are of the same caliber.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@MichaelGuy Mike pay no attention to Chris she is a fake claims to be a man posing as a woman, she is a white woman who loves black men it appears and will say anything to defend you know the type  I am sure..

ChrisBrown
ChrisBrown

@MichaelGuy You live in a fantasy world of your own making. It seems you have bundled together all of the things you find bad in modern America and laid them at the doorstep of the Democrats. Your suggestion that a vote for Romney would have been a fulfillment of King's dream is ludicrous and only comes from your topsy turvy world view. 

Partisan blinders make blind.


ahandout
ahandout

@ChrisBrown  It should really make you angry that Openminded is a troll, a made up persona to post racist remarks and race bait.  His usual screen name is sacredh.

Frankly, I think he should be banned from the site for this stunt, along with the other race baiters that posted here today.  Given the current racial tensions of the country, pulling stuff like this is sick. 

sykodiesel
sykodiesel

@ChrisBrown Chris Brown is all about the victimization strategy that most liberals fall into the trap of. They are told how to think and what trigger words to say to receive sympathy for something that never happened to them. I love to watch them try to make a case about one by using these trigger words that end up looking really bad on them. Chris Brown, you are a complete moron. Nothing can save you from your own demise.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@ChrisBrown By the way if time is a swamp why you on here? Time lets people have opinions and say it like it is refreshing all but to single minded people like you, or should I say simple minded ?

Openminded1
Openminded1

@ChrisBrown I have been around longer then you cristina and have seen many women like you who love being with black men, as i said before that is ok, but it shows a bias. You do not have to be that way, black men will like you anyway just because you are white, except this black man I am not into older white women that are over weight and sleep with to many black guys . Hope condoms are used.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@juanitarojas BHO as Bull Connor. Interesting, do you have a newsletter I may subscribe to? 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@sacredh  

I'm leaving too. Gotta take care of my wife.

I'll leave the insane crackpots to stew in their own, um, well, I'll just leave them to stew.

ChrisBrown
ChrisBrown

@AaronCohn @ChrisBrown Did you read what "Opensewer" wrote below? Some fantasies about black men and women that are from his daddy's bottom drawer. What has anything he wrote to do with the President? We are talking about a troll here, n'est ce pas?

Openminded1
Openminded1

@ChrisBrown @sacredh You cristina are a fake you say you are man but you show a woman avatar and sound like a woman. If you do not like it on this site and can not take it stay off. You are nothing more then your picture a silly woman upset that some one got your goat, and has your number I am real you are a phony cry baby. Bleeding heart liberal. Get off the sight and post your rants with family members and co-workers.

sykodiesel
sykodiesel

@fitty_three @sacredh once fitty is pinned to the wall, he takes off.. Feels good to know i made him squirm all day. 7,000,000 black Conservative voters cant be wrong.

notsacredh
notsacredh

@ChrisBrown, there really isn't much moderation here. Livefrye is basically automated moderation triggered by cursing.

notsacredh
notsacredh

@Openminded1, goodmorning. I got up at 7, took a shower and went over to the rental. They were in bed. They did the painting themselves while I was at work yesterday. They left a message with my MIL, but of course she never left me a message.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@aztecian @Paul,nnto @fitty_three @sykodiesel Cons like Obama you mean and you equal to the black panther movement. The KKK are a bunch of morons who are almost all but dead. they are a joke. On the other hand violent white haters like you are the real problem.

sykodiesel
sykodiesel

@aztecian  not at all. Everybody has their right to vote the way they want to. And to strangle the vote with assumptions of racism and bigotry, only make you racist and biggoted yourself.