The of hundreds of Negroes eager to
The Oxford dictionary defines faith as “Complete trust or confidence” and, similarly, defines hope as “Grounds for believing that something good may happen” (Oxford Dictionary). It is human nature to have faith in the future and hope that everything will be alright. In both Obama’s speech from the Democratic convention and Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon from Ebenezer Baptist Church hope seems to be an overlying theme. These two sources seem incredibly faithful in the heart of the American people even as they face challenges such as the discrimination of minorities or the absence of social justice. This is what it means to be American: even in the presence of adversity hope prevails. Martin Luther King Jr delivered a sermon entitled “The American Dream” on July 4th, 1965. King gave this sermon in front of hundreds of Negroes eager to hear the word of God. In his sermon King presents the concept of the average American Negro, a man who has been oppressed all his life but who also has the God given right to pursue the American dream. Saying, “The American dream reminds us, and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day, that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth” (King). King claims that the American dream is available to everyone, including the American Negro. He strives to push the idea of just how universal and attainable the idea of prospering in America truly is. King claims that the oppression of all minority groups, especially the American Negro is in of itself limiting the potential of America’s future. King goes on to describe a time in his life where he visited a school of ‘untouchables’ in India. An untouchable is a person, be it man, woman or child, who has been labelled outcast, limited by social norms because they are seen as unclean or unworthy of certain rights. When being introduced to the children, King was presented as an untouchable from America. After some thought, he realized that that is exactly how the American Negro is be described as in the eyes of others. The American Negro is oppressed, shunned and outcast just like the untouchables are in India. “And I said to myself, ‘Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.’ And this is the evilness of segregation: it stigmatizes the segregated as an untouchable in a caste system. We hold these truths to be self-evident, if we are to be a great nation, that all men (all men) are created equal. God’s black children are as significant as his white children” (King). King calls out the american people not to be holding steady to the founding values this country was created on, that all men are created equal. But what really stands out in this statement is the claim about limiting our potential— that if we are to be a great nation, one must embrace the fact that all men are created equal and should be treated as so. King then goes on to describe what he believes America can be. He compares this potential to Jamaica, where he visited. They live without judgement, prejudices or biases against different minority groups. “Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica, ‘Out of many people, one people.’ And they say, ‘Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans'” (King). This is the dream that King believes for America, not just for the American Negro, but for every American. He argues that the only way America will reach the cultural paradise that Jamaica seems to be is by embodying the way of Jesus. Even though adversity and violent acts were being thrown against Jesus, he did not turn violent but instead held his ground with what King describes as “soul force” (King). King maintains hope through the challenges simply because of his faith in the American people and his faith in God. He transfers that hope to the crowd he preaches to, giving them the strength to endure their journey— just as Jesus did. King channels his hope from God and from God’s love, saying “Oh yes, love is the way. Love is the only absolute. More and more I see this…hate is too great a burden to bear…Hate does something to the soul that causes one to lose his objectivity…And I know now that Jesus is right, that love is the way” (King). King’s idea of the American dream and what it means to be an American relies on the ideas of equality, love and empathy. Obama’s democratic convention speech conveys a similar message to that of Dr. King. He doesn’t hold back on complimenting the American people. He describes them as “The generous, big hearted, hopeful country, that made my story, that made all of our stories possible” (Obama). He argues that although America is not perfect, plagued with war and pain, Americans are different. And after facing so many challenges and tragedies, the American spirit and dream have somehow been preserved. This spirit is comprised of integrity, hopefulness and kindness, not unlike the ideas King accepted. Listing all of the accomplishments America achieved over the course of his two terms, including free healthcare for all Americans and justice served to Osama Bin Laden, he is full of pride. He describes the American people as stubborn and with great endurance: endurance that is needed in order to make change happen. Saying, “By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. And through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime. So, tonight, I’m here to tell you that, yes, we’ve still got more work to do” (Obama). Throughout his whole speech, even when speaking about failures or disaster, Obama maintains an optimistic tone and seems to be incredibly hopeful in the American people. He addresses millions of people as though he’s speaking to an old friend. He then goes on to speak about the 2016-2017 election, describing it as not only a difference between parties but “a more fundamental choice—about who we are as a people” (Obama). He uses this easily accessible point of differing opinions to speak about the nature of diversity. No, one might believe the same thing as others but that’s okay because “It’s precisely this contest of idea that pushes our country forward” (Obama). He argues that even through the swarms of conflicting opinions, he still has faith in America’s future and faith in the American people because he’s seen the good that has ultimately resulted from the bad. The American people possess a strength he has never seen before, a strength that has lasted for generations and will continue to shape our future for generations to come. He goes on to describe the values that his grandparents taught him as he grew older, the values he still carries with him to this day. “They valued…traits like honesty and hard work, kindness, courtesy, humility, responsibility, helping each other out. That’s what they believed in. True things. Things that last. The things we try to teach our kids” (Obama). The American dream is the truth and hard work that lies in American people, to be honest and to be trustworthy is what will maintain that American hope and faith in the future. This is what he believes defines what it means to be American. Saying, “They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here points to heart. That’s what matters” (Obama). Not only is it the faith of the American people that reassures Obama about the hope for the future, but it’s the personality of the American people he listed at the beginning of his speech. He calls the citizens of America: “The generous, big hearted, hopeful” (Obama). When addressing these works a common theme, as previously mentioned, is faith. For Dr. King, his hope and faith in humanity comes from faith in God which translates to faith in the American people and faith in the future. For Obama, his faith stems from comprehensible faith in the goodness of the American people. Both make references to our constitution, and as such the values America was founded on. Both rely heavily on the idea “that all of us are created equal; all of us are free in the eyes of God” (Obama). He uses the past, in which MLK lead his people to victory during the civil rights movement as a platform for the hope, in his own speech. Saying, “That’s who we are. That’s our birthright—the capacity to shape our own destiny. That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent. It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma” (Obama). Being an American relies on the rights we possess under the constitution. It relies on the license we carry and the location on our birth certificate. But to President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., being an American means the dreams we carry are backed by a love and a faith in our country that is unmatched by any other place in the world. It relies on the compassion and equality of the citizens, the quality of morality and spirit throughout the country, and the unity of the American people. These are the most valuable topics represented by both King and Obama.