Copyright ©2020 - Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III, All Rights Reserved.
Jan 2008 21

A Season of Change

Posted in Social Justice, Speeches

Positive and Negative Changes in American Society Since the Death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Delivered at the M. O.S. E.S Banquet January 21, 2008

If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today what we he say about the current state of American and the changes that have occurred in our nation the past forty years since his death? Would he praise it as a time of great progress where we have finally reached the Promised Land? Would he lament it as a time of 40 years of wilderness wandering? Would he see it as a curious blend of both realities; of prosperity and decline; civil rights and civil wrongs; the improvement of democracy and the slow dismantling of democracy; a time when great wealth and fortunes have been amassed and a time where great poverty has flourished among the common people of this great and prosperous land.

Each year we rightfully celebrate the birthday of this great warrior for freedom. We recently broke ground on a magnificent monument to him on our national mall. We revere him. We laud him. We toast and exalt him. We give our speeches. We have our marches. We tell our stories and assemble for beautiful moments like this evening to pay tribute to his life and legacy.

But what would he say to us today about the changes this country has made if he were physically alive today? What words of wisdom would he give us as we continue the struggle for freedom, justice and equality and continue on the long road to his beloved community; a community where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness remain its most cherished and prized ideals.

This beloved community is a place where every man, woman and child, notwithstanding race, gender, class, religion, ethnicity, place of origin or sexual orientation can actualize his or her god given potential. It is a place of harmony and peace, truth and justice. It is a community where all people can develop and utilize the gifts that God has given them and use those gifts to boldly and proudly create a world community where poverty, hatred, violence and war are forever vanquished.

As one of the most dynamic and gifted change agents in the history of America, what would he say to us today about the changes we have made as a nation? What would he say to us today as we navigate the stormy and tumultuous waters of change in our time?

Dr. King would remind us that once again the winds of change are sweeping across this nation. He would tell us that nothing in life is permanent but change and would urge us all to be positive, peaceful agents of change. He would encourage us in the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi “To be the change that we seek in the world. ” He would also say that the more things change the more they stay the same, for many of the same issues that confronted this nation 40 years ago are same issues that confront us today. Some changes have been for the best and some changes have been for the worst. Some changes have been overwhelmingly positive. Other changes have been devastatingly negative. I would like to spend some time this evening delineating those positive and negative changes in accordance with our theme today.

I. Positive Changes. ” Racial Attitudes

Dr. King would congratulate us on the positive changes and progress that have made in the area of race relations and racial attitudes in this country since his death.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, in conjunction with the Washington Post, conducted a study titled, “Race and Ethnicity in 2001: Attitudes, Perceptions and Experiences, ” which found that on a whole range of issues, whites are more sympathetic to the realities of African Americans in U. S. society- and they also have closer contact and relationships with Blacks than 35-40 years ago.

“The survey found that 65 percent of whites thought the federal government should be responsible for insuring that minorities have access to schools that are equal in quality to whites. It found that 55 percent of whites felt the federal government was responsible for ensuring that minorities receive equal access to health care. Sixty nine percent of whites felt it was the government’s responsibility to make sure minorities received “treatment by the courts and policy equal to whites. ” Sixty three percent of whites thought that there are “still major problems facing minorities in this country. ” On social issues, the findings were equally telling. When asked if it were better to marry someone of their own race or a different race, 53 percent said it didn’t matter. Eighty percent of whites said, “race should not be a factor, ” when it comes to adopting children. When asked if you live in a racially integrated neighborhood, 61 percent of blacks responded yes and 44 percent of whites said yes. ” (Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor. “Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: Racism in America Today)

The positive changes go on and on, and tend to go in the same direction; more tolerance, less racism. And these changes have been a welcome relief to a nation who has carried the burdens of race and been historically polarized by them. Yes, wounds have healed. Yes, some wounds are healing. Yes, but some wounds have been freshly opened.

There are no more signs reading “white” and “colored. ” Julian Bond reminds us” The voters’ booth and schoolhouse door now swing open for everyone, no longer closed to those whose skins are dark. ” Progress has been made. Segregation is no longer legal. ” (Julian Bond. “Civil Rights Now and Then. ”) But there are still many problems and still much work to do.

While positive changes in race relations between blacks and whites have occurred the last forty years in America, racism still exists. Its forms range the more virulent type where a black man was beaten, tied to a car and drug to his death through the dirt roads of Texas to the more subtle forms of systemic and institutional racism that compel institutions to reward persons, provide career opportunities and give access to power and resources to some while denying those same opportunities to others.

Moreover, since September 11, discrimination and violence against Muslims, and people of the Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Indian and Arab descent have alarmingly escalated in the name of terrorism prevention thus creating what Cain Hope Felder called a new ”hermeneutics of suspicion. ”

The language of some public discourse sometimes creates its own culture of prejudice. One writer observed that the use of such words as “illegal aliens, ” have conveniently become code words that vicariously degrade Hispanic, Mexican and Latino people. Moreover, recent violence against Gays and Lesbians could be also the result of the inflammatory rhetoric of recent public political and religious conversation. The philosopher Plato reminds us that mislogos inspires misanthropos. The violence and hatred disseminated in the spoken word can lead to violence and hatred against our fellow man.

“Racism today is greater than scrawled graffiti and individual indignity, the policeman’s’ night stick, the job or home or education denied. It is deeply rooted in the logic of our market system, in the culturally defined and politically enforced prices paid for different units of labor, and it is deeply rooted in our national psyche. ”(Julian Bond, Civil Rights Now and then. ”)

The recent termination affirmative action programs in Michigan gives us all pause about the nature of racism. It is highly ironic that at the time that we were putting shovels into the ground to construct a memorial for Martin Luther King Jr on the national mall in Washington, we were putting shovels into the ground to bury affirmative action in Michigan.

“The picture of racial injustice in the U. S. points to the systemic nature of racism. The degree of racial disparity and inequality are not just the result of ignorance or a lack of tolerance, The greatest proof of this is not just the conditions that exist today, but the deterioration of conditions for African Americans and other minorities in the aftermath of the social justice struggles of the 1960’s, which points to the institutionalization of racism. ”(Taylor)

Dr. King would praise the positive attitudinal and behavioral changes that have occurred among whites and blacks in America in the area of race relations, but would lament those areas of American life were racism still exists. He would encourage us all to keep working for positive changes and racial justice until permanent changes and complete justice have been finally realized in all areas of American life.

We must continue the struggle carry our work for justice into the areas of race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, abilities, disabilities and other categories. Progress has been made, but we must keep working hard and take nothing for granted. The achievements we have made can be reversed and we all have a stake in preventing this from happening.  Carolyn Kindler, in her article, “Changing Attitudes in America, ” says the following:

“Inspite of the progress that has been made in the United States since the Civil Rights movement toward achieving racial, justice, racism remains the single most destructive force in American society. Problems such as poverty, unemployment, urban decay, deterioriating educational opportunities, crime and violence are all elevated by the persistence of racism in our society. ”(Kinder)

Black Political Representation In the area of black political power and representation, Dr. King would applaud the progress. “The number of black elected officials has increased from fewer than 200 in 1964 to over 8,000 today. Today there are more than 47 black mayors in cities of 50,000 or more-including Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia and formerly San Francisco. Black elected officials have increased exponentially which is a favorable sign that more African Americans have gained access to American political power and much of that progress has occurred in the south. (Taylor)

The emergence of Barack Obama as a viable presidential candidate is a logical step in a long journey for freedom and equality that began with the American Revolution and continues through the various struggles for freedom and equality throughout our history. The fact that we can contemplate in this day the possibility of a black man or a white woman becoming President of the United States or that a Muslim, Keith Ellison now serves in the House of Representatives is evidence of how far we’ve come. We have come a long way but still have a long way to go.

And although black political representation has increased, more progress must be made in holding leaders accountable and challenging them to become change agents for the people they govern and represent. Gone are the days when victory was simply getting a black person elected to office because so few were there. As black representatives have settled into their governing positions on city, state and federal levels, finding themselves “managing austerity, ” with the proliferation of crime, poverty a shrinking tax base, economic blight and the disintegration of the public school system, they must still be challenged to herald the changes that will bring about full justice and equality for citizens. The question now is how will black elected officials still work to establish the kind of society in which all citizens can have a fair chance at life.

Before the civil rights movement, there were few Black politicians, business owners and college graduates who could make the most from their opportunities, due to racism and segregation. The movement helped to break the legal fetters that limited Black upward mobility. Black Upward Mobility In the last forty years, we have seen an increase in black upward mobility.

The percentage of Black families making more than $25,000 (in 1982 dollars) increased from 10 percent in 1960 to 25 percent in 1982. By the mid-1990s, before the full extent of the economic expansion had been realized, fully one-seventh of Black families made more than $50,000 a year, more than at any other period in history. The percentage of Blacks occupying managerial and professional positions went from 13 percent in the early 1980s to 22 percent by 1999. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study on African American progress in the professions indicates gains up to 470 percent from 1972 to 1991 in areas such as accounting, engineering, computer programming, law, medicine, journalism and management. (Taylor)

These are positive changes that should be celebrated. but we must never take for granted our progress. There is still much work to do.

The Rights of Women and other Minorities.

While women’s suffrage and women’s rights movements began before the the 1960’s, they certainly gained vigor from the Civil Rights Movement. The movements for Civil and Human Rights, peace and justice of the 1960’s awakened the need for others to join the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. We might say that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s gave new momentum to the Women’s Rights movement. As the struggle for human and civil rights gained ascendancy, other oppressed peoples awakened from their slumber and also began voicing the need for positive change. (See Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement by Sally G. McMillen)

Today we have more women corporate CEO’s, political representatives and entrepreneurs than at any other time in our history but work still must be done. Overall, women are still paid lower wages than their male counterparts and vestiges of inequality and gender discrimination sadly still exist.

I sat in numb disbelief one evening as all of the Republican candidates stood on stage and presented their views. It struck me that not a single one of them was black, minority or a female!

Moreover, pitting Hillary against Obama because one is a black male and the other a white female is a diversion. To make the issue race and gender is a distraction from the real issues. We need candidates who will speak to the real issues facing our nation. The fact that a black man and a white woman could be on that platform as viable candidates for President in this country is something worth celebrating. And whether you are for Barack or Hillary, the fact of the matter is either one of them is certainly capable of giving us the kind of quality leadership that will move us proudly into the future.

Dr. King would certainly applaud these positive changes. For as he stated on many occasions, “If one is not free all are not free. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. “He would urge us to keep working for positive change; to keep advocating for justice and equality on all fronts and in all areas of our national life. Such changes bring out the best in us and the best in all of America. One man said, “When everybody does better, everybody does better. ”

Negative Changes.

These are just a few areas where positive changes have been made in our nation, I cannot name them all in the interest of time. But there are many areas in our country where changes have occurred for the worst. We must remember that the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King had implications and impact not only on issues of race and class in America, but issues of War and Peace, poverty and wealth, corporate power versus individual power; and domestic and global concerns for social justice. What are some of the negative changes that have occurred in our nation? Unfortunately some things in our nation have taken a downward turn.

1. While black progress has resulted from the Civil Rights movement in many areas of American life, many social problems in our communities and nation have gotten worse.

Sociologists refer now to a permanent underclass in America; an underclass of poor people whose fate and future is to remain permanently poor.

Crime, unemployment, poor education, drug abuse teenage pregnancy, lack of access of health care and other problems have made quantum increases since the time of Dr. King’s death. Widespread and rampant drug abuse has destroyed many of our communities and the residual affects are devastating and have rippling effects on health care, education, the police and criminal justice system.

Someone was saying the other day that Detroit has a 25 percent graduation rate for high school students. Is this true? Illiteracy runs high as many students in public schools across the nation not only drop out but are pushed out of the system. Where will they go? What will they do once they are out on the street, without education or skills that make them employable? Jonathan Kozol has written extensively on this subject.

While there are more black millionaires than every before there are more black poor than ever before.

There are more black college graduates than ever before, but more black men and women in prison than ever before. While there are 603,000 blacks enrolled in institutions of higher education, there are 757,000 who are locked up in federal and state prisons. Blacks make up 13 percent of the population but represent 50 percent of the prison population.

In some cities, more than 50 percent of the black male population is under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. Black men are 6 percent of the population but are more than 40 percent of those on death row.

Much of legal segregation was abolished in the 1960’s but Harvard University’s Civil Rights project released a study indicating that segregation has reappeared in America’s public school systems. The five most segregated cities in the North are Detroit, Milwaukee, New York City, Newark and Chicago. Crumbling city infrastructures, a shrinking economic and tax base, the impact of poverty on families, the lack of parental oversight and other problems have all precipitated the downward spiral in public education in our many of our central cities.

In terms of black family life, one study indicated that 70 percent of all African American children are now born out of wedlock, 60 percent grow up in homes without fathers and black children in general had a better chance of growing up with two parents in slavery than they do today.

Furthermore, social and economic problems affect all Americans. We must dispel the myth that such negative changes adversely impact only black Americans.

“In unprecedented numbers, millions of white people are confronting…unemployment, poverty, and hunger. A recent study…documents the growing crisis of non-Hispanic whites. Half of all Americans living in poverty, nearly 18 million are white. For white female-headed households, more than one in three are poor. From 1979 to 1991, the poverty rate nearly doubled for white families headed by an individual aged 25 to 34. Whites comprise nearly half of all Americans on AFDC and are the majority of those who receive food stamps. In 1991 12.6 million whites received Medicaid…to many of them, the American Dream has become a nightmare. (Taylor)

2. Changes for the worst or negative changes not only affect black America but all America. Economic globalization and outsourcing of cheap paying jobs overseas have undermined unions and displaced American workers.

Last year, nearly 40,000 jobs were lost to overseas markets in Michigan alone the number for jobs lost nationally is close to 400,000.

The rationale is why pay an American worker top wages to manufacture a product when an employer can pay lower wages to an overseas worker to make the same product?

But at what cost? The profits are made but what are the long and short term ramifications? When a timber company harvests an ancient redwood forest, the GDP rises by the market value of the wood. But it takes no account of the economic, social and environmental costs involved in the loss of the forest. ”

In their book Alternatives to Economic Globalization, John Cavanaugh and Gerry Mander observe the following:

“Sold to the world as a panacea for all problems, economic globalization has not live up to its advertising. I has not lifted the poor, it has instead brought record disparities in income and wealth between rich and poor nations, and rich and poor within nations. It has greatly inhibited democracy and social justice; it has destroyed local communities and pushed farmers off their traditional lands. And it has accelerated the greatest environmental breakdown in history. The only real beneficiaries of globalization are the world’s largest corporations and their top officials, and the global bureaucracies they helped to create. ”

3. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, we seem to be creating and living in a climate of paralyzing fear.

The politics of fear have been aggressively consumed our national discourse as we witness the slow and painstaking retrenchment of our basic civil liberties. In a climate of fear, impetuous decisions can be made that will forever threaten our basic freedoms.  Since September 11, 2001, we have witnessed the slow and gradual abbreviation of our basic rights and freedoms in response to terrorism and in the name of national security. The implementation of the Patriot Act, the Military Tribunal Act, which Jacob Hornberger calls, “The most radical and dangerous transformation of the criminal justice system since our nation’s inception; ” the escalation of domestic spying on American citizens, the abuse of prisoners at Abu Gharib and Guantanomo Bay and the general circumvention of the rule of law, are the results of government seeking a free, unbridled hand in eradicating possible terrorists and preventing another 9/11 like disaster.

Have the the issues now become the power of law versus the law of power. Balancing power between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government is both a hallmark and virtue of our constitutional republic. To prevent the abuse of power between the three branches of government, the legislative branch enacts laws, the executive branch enforces laws and the judicial branch interprets laws. Unfortunately, the pendulum of power has tilted towards the executive branch in recent years and we must be careful not to create a quasi dictatorship in the name of democracy. Power unchecked precipitates corrupting power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Milton Friedman reminds us that “The great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. ”(See Capitalism and Freedom. ”)

The question is not whether terrorists should be fought or that our security should not be increased. The question is at what cost? The question is not whether the President should have a hand in enforcing laws. The question is the means by which this can be legitimately done in a nation of laws. If we violate our own laws and negate basic human rights of citizens and non-citizens in an effort to get terrorists, what implications will this have for our laws, rights and freedoms in the future? One of the great virtues of our nation is that citizens and non-citizens are entitled to the same due process of law.

Never before has America experienced the attack from outside enemies on its own turf as it did on September 11, 2001 and while recent surveys indicate that many Americans do not mind having some of their freedoms abridged to create more security and safety in our nation, the danger is the potential abuse and misuse of freedoms. In an effort to vouchsafe and protect our basic freedoms, we must be careful not to destroy them altogether and trample them underfoot. Dr. King lived, fought and died for freedom. We must not forget that his sacrifices have broader impact on the freedoms that we all live for and love.

While as a nation we must exercise caution and develop a new watchfulness for enemies real and potential, we must not in an effort to establish greater security within our very own borders deprive ourselves of the very freedoms for which our forebears have so diligently and valiantly fought and have long been the cherished ideals of our nation. ” There is a fine line between freedom that allows for a security that will protect it and a security that will allow for freedom to be protected. ”

We stand today at a very unique crossroads as a nation. But it is also in this climate that we must take a long hard look at our history and make sure that we do not in an effort to preserve our freedoms end up destroying them by turning against each other in an attempt to establish a permanent security. Benjamin Franklin once stated: ”They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety….for where liberty dwells there is my country. ”

4. The first time in our history, we have launched a preemptive war. Over one million Iraqis have died and thousands of American service men and women have been killed and maimed for life.

Dr. King was not a pacifist. He believed in Just War Theory. The reasons for this war have changed so many times we have lost track. What is the reason that we are in Iraq? The real reason?

A sad truth remains that many of our service men and women were sent into battle without adequate armor, and many of them have returned home without adequate health care after making such great sacrifices. Many of them are jobless and scores are now homeless. Dr. King opposed the Vietnam War and many suggest that it was his stance against that war that sealed his death warrant. The reasons he stood against the Vietnam War would also parallel his reasons for opposing the war in Iraq if he were alive today. Dr. King believed that violence and war begets more violence and war unless disinterested love and neutralizing peace emerge.

There has been very little accountability or account given for going to war. Congress appears paralyzed. Democracy appears stymied. Checks and balances in government appear obsolete. Why haven’t the President and Vice President and others been called into account for the decisions to go to war? Where are the voices of change and protest in the corridors of government that will sway the pendulum of balance in our democracy back towards truth, justice and openness? Who cares for the men and women who put on the uniforms and fight for America? Who cares about them?

5. Individual rights in our representative democracy appear superseded by the rights of multinational corporations.

The corporate take over and buy out of the political process has imperiled democracy for John and Jane Q. Citizen. Many of our representatives immersed in meeting the needs of just their corporate sponsors. We need to overhaul of our system. We need positive change in every area of our national life. How is it that legislation designed to give the average man and woman protection and a fair shake from corporations is written by the very corporations themselves?

It is the nature of corporations to make money but when profits are placed over people and greed supplants genuine human need, we all pay the price.

There was much discussion last week on the value of cloned meat that will soon come to American markets, and whether consumers have a right to know if they are eating cloned or regular meat. Again, the rights of individual consumers to know what they are eating collide with the rights of Corporations to not let them know what they are eating. These rights to know or not to know often have to do with how such rights will impact the economic bottom line powerful corporations and that’s not right. Who cares for the little man? Who cares for the average John and Jane Doe? This tension of the rights of individuals versus the rights of corporations permeate our entire culture and have important implications for the survival of our democracy.

We need corporations and economic reinvestment in America. But profit with out social responsibility is an anathema.

We need public campaign financing reform. If Abraham Lincoln were alive today he couldn’t afford to run for office.

Jeffersonian and Jacksonian forms of democracy appear extinct. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson believed in creating governments that would keep the levers of government and its powers in the hands of the common man. That is to say, government not only for the rich and powerful, which is plutocracy but Government of the people, for the people and by the people, which is the hallmark of our representative democracy. Such government will perish from this earth if we don’t work for positive change and vouchsafe to keep it. It would also help if Congress would begin working a full workweek to effect these changes.

And what about the media? Now in electronic media entertainment seems more important than disseminating vital political information. Is Tom Cruise’s scientology and Brittany Spears parenting problems more important than the threats to our democracy? Where is the real news? Where is news that is lifeblood to our republic? Has fourth estate now simply become the sole estate of the rich and powerful? Is A. J. Liebling’s observation that “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one, ” true? Small wonder that in these times, America’s press is ranked fifty fifth among all nations that have free presses?  Even religion in recent years seems to be increasing used as a device for polarization. In recent public religious discourse, we have seen the escalation in the language of violence, hatred and vilification, precipitating division people who are different or differently religious or even a religious. Why does our secular constitutional culture appear more tolerant and broad-minded of different religious and non-religious points of view than some people who are religious? Is God that narrow minded? Is God really that intolerant? Is God that short sighted that as followers we are more concerned about who and what God is against rather than what God is for? We must co-exist and stop demonizing all Muslims and branding them as terrorists. All this does is escalate division, promote suspicion and increase separation. We must focus the things we have in common, dialogue about where we differ and keep building together the community and world that we all desire. This involves in positive and sacrificial change

There is always tension between the principles and values of a religion ultimately espouses and upholds and the beliefs and behaviors of those who practice it.

Is religion now being used as a tool to stifle dissent in the public arena? Do authoritarian styles of leadership in the church help create the kind of ethos in our larger culture that does not tolerate dissent, show openness to different points of view, nor encourage the kind of transformational thinking that will facilitate our openness to positive change? Lawrence Britt warns us of how religion has been co-opted and used as a tool for fascism and repression. Naomi Wolf cites alarming parallels between to the rise of fascism in history and the possible emergence of fascism in America.

I do not mean to paint a dismal picture of negative changes that have happened since the time of King’s death forty years ago but this is a short glimpse into our present reality and have caused us to wander in the wilderness. While we have taken steps toward the beloved community and the Promised Land as nation, we have also taken steps backwards into Egypt. The handwriting is on the wall. It is not a forgery and we must take nothing for granted in our democracy.

What Must Be Done to Be Positive Change Agents? Dr. King would urge us to keep stepping, to keep moving and to keep advocating for the positive peaceful changes that will make ourselves, nation and world better places in which to live. We must do this at home, at work, in our houses of worship; in the counting house and the school house and other houses in our land.

He would tell us to move forward and to keep fighting the good fight for freedom, justice and equality for all people, everywhere and on every level.

He would tell us not to buy into the social philosophy that subscribes to the beliefs that we are permanent and separate entities because we are different with no common ground and no common heritage.

He would tell us to keep building and working towards common ground; to cement the things that unite us and surmount the things that divide us.

He would tell us to be mindful of those forces and powers and thought processes both publically and privately that seek to deride our quest for positive change, derail our work for peace and justice, and dissolve our will from being positive change agents living out our common co-existence.

He would urge us to be mindful too of those forces visible and invisible that seek to invalidate our claims for a better democracy, establish a more just and open society and lay the groundwork that will forge our common ground together.  He would tell us to keep hoping, working, talking, giving, and risking; to keep modeling positive change and demonstrating what it means to be in community with others. The more we duplicate genuine community on the local level, the more we can realize it on the national level.

He would tell us to be aware of what is going on in our society and world, to learn to think for ourselves, to do our research and take nothing for granted, organize and take action to make our community and world a safer and more just place in which to live.

To those who say that that all is lost because interests arrayed against us are too strong and powerful, he would say “a thousand mile journey starts with a single step and he would say in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “One on the side of God constitutes a majority. ”

He would say that we all can be positive change agents; that we have a stake in the future of our nation and that we must work diligently to bring the world we seek.

He would commend the M. O.S. E.S organization and all that it is doing to create genuine human community among a diverse group of peoples. The community model of M. O.S. E.S. is worthy of emulation on all levels. It is a model that respects all people, invites people to the table into dialogue, and creates a context where common ground can be forged from the matrix of shared human experiences.

He would tell us that America is a work in progress, that we are works in progress and that we must keep working to be better and get better. My mother would always say, “For the world to get better you must get better. ”

He would tell us all to keep changing our country for the better, but to model first that change in ourselves, in our outlook and in our attitudes, in our outreach and in our genuine caring for others. Carpe Diem, he would say, Seize the times and the day,. He would tell us to instill those values in our children and challenge our children to instill them in their children.

He would tell us to keep fighting for justice and fighting for peace and to do everything that we can to vouchsafe and preserve our democracy so that all people can realize their true gifts and potential.

We have come a long way as a nation, and we have a long way to go and if we keep moving, hoping, sharing, struggling, working and building, we can reach the promised land; our future will be bright, beautiful and glorious and we create the beloved community where there is no more war, no more division and hatred, no more violence and disparity, no more poverty in our communities and in our world and then we can all together truly say as he said in the words of that old Negro Spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last!

Let us keep working for that world and let us do all in our power to be positive change agents to make this world a better place for all people.

Thank you and God bless you all!

@Copyright Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III. All rights Reserved.


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