Another MLK holday – nearly 40 years since Dr. King’s assassination and 21 since the holiday honoring his life became official. Why is this day different from all other holidays?

You have heard and seen so much about Dr. King. There is little I can add to the understanding of his life, so I will not attempt to do so. I will, however, attempt to add to your understanding of the impact of Dr. King’s life on me and people like me.

In 1967, I was eight years-old and attending Public School 208, a majority-white elementary school in the East Flatbush area. Today the surrounding area’s population is entirely Caribbean in population; then it was entirely white. My middle brother and I were “bussed in.” The Thanksgiving holiday was approaching when my 3rd Grade teacher, Miss Cohen, gave us a composition assignment: “What I Have To Be Thankful For.”

On this particular November day somebody rubbed me the wrong way. My composition ended up entitled “What I Do Not Have To Be Thankful For.” In it, I wrote that the United States was wrong to be involved in the Vietnam War and that we should not be bossing around other nations. My parents were active in community and political issues so I was aware of the Vietnam War. Only a few weeks earlier I had participated in the Moratorium Day protests with my parents. And somewhere I must have heard or read King’s words from the previous spring. It was one of our assignments to read the newspaper every day for what was known as “Current Events.”

Well, it may take a whole village to raise a child, but sometimes it takes a child to enlighten the village. (A humorous case in point from our folk lore – “The Emperor’s New Clothes.") My teacher freaked. She called in the principal, Dr. Harry Ordan, to deal with me. I was already a behavior problem, so my desk was front and center in the classroom. Dr. Ordan came in the very next day and proceeded to seat himself on my desk and explain why the United States had to be “the policeman of the world.” Maybe he had been reading Dr. King’s speeches, I don’t know. Dr. Ordan never mentioned my name, but he did refer to some words “written by one of your classmates” and he was looking dead at me through most of his little talk. As much of a class clown as I was, I was still embarrassed by the attention -- but I did not regret what I wrote.

When my mother heard what happened, she came into school and tore into Ordan like a lioness fillets a wildebeest. I only wish I had actually been in the room when it all went down. The principal did apologize to both her and me for any embarrassment or inconvenience. And he never apologized for his political views.

What I took from the episode was this. There is so much power accompanying ideas and words – power that no one can control. And when those ideas and words highlight the need for peace and justice in the world, they are threatening to many people.

It was also nice to have additional confirmation of what I already knew: my mother would always have my back.

Flash forward 39 years -- the lifetime of Dr. King. I was a candidate for Congress in Central Brooklyn sitting in an interview with three representatives from one of Brooklyn’s local newspapers. My opponents were also present and answering questions. To paraphrase slightly, I was asked if I would support the use of nuclear weapons if an enemy nation first used nuclear weapons against us or one of our allies.

As my opportunity to respond approached, my parent’s voices and actions were in my mind. But it was Dr. King’s speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 that was ringing in my ears. This was a speech in which King laid out the moral imperative for peace and an end to U.S. prosecution of the Vietnam War. King articulated a history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam’s affairs as well as the bankruptcy of moral leadership within the United States itself. It was masterful and, as we listen to it today, chilling. Every issue he mentioned remains an issue today. Every dilemma confronting our nation then continues to confront us now.

To nuke or not to nuke, that was the question. My answer was an unequivocal “no” – I would not support the use of nuclear weapons. The publication responded a few weeks later with a dismissal of my perspective on the use of force in defense of our national security as na├»ve and unrealistic for a potential Congressman. Another candidate whose answer was less clear and less threatening received the endorsement. Who knows? Maybe he felt exactly as I did, but just "couldn't" say it.

Like 1967, 2006 reminded me of the power and fear accompanying the primacy of peace. Will we let fear rule us? In this day and time, the use of nuclear weapons by the United States of America -- an act of such horrific violence -- would be morally unacceptable, environmentally disastrous and strategically counterproductive. Why should I even have to say this? Because we choose to live in fear? And why do we live in fear? Because we are totally disconnected from Dr. King’s vision … and our leaders have no intention of reconnecting us anytime soon. For Dr. King, as for Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth and so many others, the way to peace and enlightenment was through love. Love is the way.

Martin King loved us – all of us. Why are we afraid of love? Why are we afraid to love? Love is patient; love is blind; love does not keep score. Don’t we hear those phrases from Corinthians at so many wedding ceremonies or in our houses of worship? Where is the behavior governed by these sentiments? Where is the public policy guided by these values?

A few months after my 3rd Grade Thanksgiving composition was due – exactly one year after his dissection of the Vietnam War and his call to oppose it -- Dr. King was assassinated in the city of my father’s birth – Memphis. He was buried on April 9th – my ninth birthday. The five days leading up to that day had been some of the most emotional and confused days I had ever experienced. My birthday was the saddest and longest day of my life and, with the exception of 9/11, remains so to this day.

What has changed since King’s death? King regularly denounced the evil triumvirate of racism, economic exploitation and militarism. All three evils have only evolved during the past four decades. And nowhere is this more evident than in our prosecution of war in Iraq. With Iraq, racism at the lunch counter is replaced with ethnocentric prejudice fueling local conflicts, our own willingness to engage in nation-experimentation “somewhere else,” and the hatred, fear and prejudice displayed to those who have chosen to immigrate to America.

With Iraq, economic exploitation is now defined by the battle over oil production as well as the profile of our military – some of America’s hardest working and some of its poorest residents – as well as its most courageous. The militarism is evident in the Bush administration’s obsession with displaying America’s might – and weaknesses – to the world, and the desire to provide mega-profits to multinational corporate interests.

Substitute “Iraq” for “Vietnam,” and consider these prophetic words from King’s Riverside Church speech:

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

A good friend told me that what made Dr. King unique was his “grace” – that he was given a gift that was used well every day. I also believe that each of us has the potential to be a King, if we can be as courageous in keeping love first in our life. Therefore, there is also no question that King should be emulated. None of us should pay the price that he, like Gandhi and Jesus, had to pay. Yet, again, we cannot be ruled by fear or our resulting cowardice will silence us.

Our children must understand and sense the moral correctness of love and peace. And we must show them by example the importance of courageous action – even when inconvenient. Courageous actions do not have to be marches or sit-ins -- every effort to assist someone struggling for dignity and equality is worthy -- but they may come in the more dramatic form.

Today, we must work to end our involvement in Iraq – not simply because we are selfish but because we do not believe that the violence embedded within the proposed solutions can ever work. Come to Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 27 to march against the war and, on Monday, January 29, to lobby members of Congress. Go to the UFP&J site for details.

Why is this holiday different from other days? Because the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the day that has no meaning without action to help somebody. Because January 15th is to be lived every day for our children's sake. Because the King holiday is the annual call to join the change brigade. Thanks, Mom, thanks, Dad, thank you, Martin, for instilling love as a core value in my life.

So I close by including below the complete text of King’s 1967 speech. Thanks go to the Black Radical Congress for providing a copy of the text on their website.


Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
By Rev. Martin Luther King
4 April 1967

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling.

Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live. In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.


Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear.

In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of “sonship” and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.


And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at re-colonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.


Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

4. Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.


Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism.

War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.


These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit.

Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.


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My friends,

Please read this posting very carefully. Kevin Powell has said it all -- and very well. We must all participate in whatever way we can! (Read my Post #5 ...)


Good day, everyone!

This is Kevin Powell, Brooklyn, New York based writer and community activist. I was just out at the 50-day Sean Bell Vigil in Jamaica, Queens, New York, last night, across from the 103rd precinct. In spite of the rain, the Bell family, friends, and folks looking for basic justice were there. It was incredibly moving, and it made me think of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, as well as those four college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960. In both instances, it was just a few dedicated individuals and their very simple acts of civil disobedience which brought attention to very serious human and civil rights violations. They made sacrifices to their own comfort and their own safety, and changes did happen, as manifested in the Civil Rights Movement.

Well, here we are again, as the struggle for real justice and real freedom in America never really ended, in spite of what some of us have been led to believe. It has been over a month since Sean Bell was murdered, and his two friends, Trent Benefield and Joe Guzman, were badly wounded in a barrage of 50 shots from undercover New York Police Department officers. There is still no indictment, and there is a growing concern, in communities around New York City and throughout America, that these police officers will get off completely, if a trial even occurs.

Let me make it very clear that the Bell family, from my conversations with them last night, understand that there are good police officers. Let me also make it clear that they do not want the rhetoric of violence or revenge or disrespect for the NYPD in general around their vigil. Nor are they interested in having individuals or organizations trying to use the tragedy of Sean Bell's death for outside agendas. They simply want justice for what happened to Sean Bell. And they certainly could use the help and support from concerned human beings such as yourself.

Here is how you can support the 50-day Sean Bell Vigil in Queens:

1) It is a 50-day, 24-hour, 7 day-a-week vigil, begun on Monday, January 1st, and concluding on Monday, February 19th. I think it obvious that the 50 days symbolize the 50 bullets fired at Sean Bell and his friends.

The vigil is taking place directly across from the 103rd precinct, on 168th Street, right off Jamaica Avenue and 91st Avenue, in the Jamaica, Queens section of New York City. You can use MAPQUEST or GOOGLE to get directions either via public transportation or by driving.

There is a need for people of all backgrounds and all persuasions to participate in the vigil in shifts, day and night, weekday and weekend. Even if you can only participate for an hour or two each week, please come out. The weather has been unseasonably warm, but we are in the dead of winter, and it is going to be mad cold out there.

Please let's not let Mrs. Bell, Sean Bell's mother, who called for this vigil, and the Bell family, do this alone.

PLEASE CALL 1-866-695-2992 if you would like to participate in the vigil, or offer support.

I am hoping that CHURCHES and CHURCH LEADERS and OTHER RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL LEADERS will encourage their believers to support this important effort. This vigil is not about showboating, it is not about media attention, it is about justice. The Bell family, from what I could see and hear, are regular working class New Yorkers who have a deep faith in God, who believe in the power of the church.

INDEED, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King at this time of year, I think it would be remarkably hypocritical for any church, any mosque or masjid, any synagogue, or any religious or spiritual leader to, on the one hand, talk about Dr. King, honor Dr. King, yet say and do nothing in support of this very peaceful and very simple vigil for Sean Bell. Dr. King was a man of action, not just talk, and those of us in leadership positions, who have sizable followings, need to be as well. For police brutality toward Black and Latino communities is one of the great issues of our time. In fact, if we were to read Dr. King's I HAVE A DREAM speech in its entirety, we would note that Dr. King uses the term police brutality TWICE in that famous address. The more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same.

I am hoping that ELECTED OFFICIALS will themselves participate in this vigil, electeds from Queens, and electeds from all across the metro New York City area. The people you represent need to see that you care. They need to see you on the frontlines with the Bell family.

I am hoping that CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS, SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS, LABOR UNIONS, FRATERNITIES and SORORITIES, ACTIVISTS, and ORGANIZERS will support this effort, mobilize their bases to come out, and spread the word, near and far, to their networks.

I am hoping that COLLEGE STUDENTS will participate, and encourage their peers to support this important effort. Any time real change has happened in America, or on this planet, young people have been at the forefront. Well, you all are needed now more than ever.

I am hoping that HIPHOP HEADS everywhere, the famous and the unknown, will support this important effort. Time and again the hiphop generation, the hiphop community, has been knocked and mocked for not caring about social issues. Well, here is our opportunity to make a difference in an historic way.

I am hoping that PROFESSIONALS and PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS will support this important effort. Your skill sets and access to resources are sorely needed to sustain this vigil.

I am hoping that MEN, especially BLACK AND LATINO MEN, will support this effort. I duly noted the number of women present last night. Women, as usual, are holding it down, but we need men to step to the plate as well. As I said to young Black and Latino men driving by last night, Sean Bell is YOU. Sean Bell could have been YOU. Men are especially needed for the late night to morning shifts, around 11pm-6am.

2) If you cannot physically participate in the 50-day vigil, here are items needed to support the Sean Bell Vigil through to its completion

- The donation of at least two Portable Toilets for the duration of the vigil
- Food, lots of food
- Drinks (bottled water, juices)
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Comfortable folding chairs for the elders who are participating
- Portable, battery operated heaters
- Portable, battery operated outdoor lights
- Batteries for heaters and outdoor lights
- Tents or tarp covering in case of bad weather
- Blankets
- Thousands of copies of the one page flier promoting the vigil
- Individuals willing to pass out the vigil flier around New York City

And we need New Yorkers to write letters to your City Council person, your State Assembly person, your State Senator, your District Leader, your Community Board President, and your Congressperson, inquiring what each of them is doing to fight for procedure and behavior reform within the New York Police Department, via the legislative process.

Thank you very kindly for taking the time to read this email, and please, again, share it with others.


Kevin Powell


P.S. -

I tried to put together some transportation information from the internet. I hope it is helpful, but I'm sure there are many folks who have better info out there.


For those driving, the Van Wyck Expressway's Jamaica Avenue exit is close by. The location is not far from York College.

Closest Subway Stop to: 103RD PRECINCT - Queens

Get off at the F Train stop -- 169TH ST STATION
Walk 0.37 miles South to destination map

Closest Bus Routes to: 103RD PRECINCT - Queens

Q110 Bus Q110 JAMAICA

Q110 Bus Q110 JAMAICA AVE : 212TH


Q54 Bus Q54 - JAMAICA 170 ST
Q56 Bus Q56 - JAMAICA 170 ST

Q54 Bus Q54 - FRSH PND RD







Q20 Bus Q20A - JAMAICA MERRICK BL via 20 AV via MAIN S
Q5 Bus Q5 - 233 ST VIA MERRICK

Q20 Bus Q20A - COLLEGE PT via MAIN ST via 20 AV
Q20 Bus Q20B - COLLEGE PT via MAIN ST via 14 AV


Q1 Bus Q01 - BELLROSE 243 ST
Q36 Bus Q36 - FLORAL PK 257 ST via JAMAICA



A few closing thoughts on 2006 ...

- Thank you to all who gave or offered assistance to my Congressional campaign. I will never forget your support.

- We all owe James Brown our gratitude for his contributions to popular culture -- and for defining a truly Black sound in the rock 'n' roll era. Brown was a tortured hero in many ways, but a hero nonetheless.

- Farewell to former President Gerald Ford -- a reasonable man who believed in public service and humility. I had my issues with his political choices, including his attacks against Harlem's Congressional Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., in the 1960s. But perspectives on some things evolve with time and my opinion of President Ford's most significant act has changed. After the demise of apartheid in South Africa -- and in the aftermath of that nation's amazing handling of "truth and reconciliation" -- I have a new appreciation of and respect for Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon and allow history to deliver a sentence of condemnation no court of law could improve upon.

- And then there is Saddam Hussein. Bluntly put, he probably got better than he deserved. His nation did not deserve him, nor did Iraq deserve us. In the aftermath of Hussein's execution, I can't help but remember, however, God's admonishment of the Israelites for their celebration after the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. According to the Passover Haggadah we have used, the Lord acknowledges the Eqyptians as divine handiwork as much as the Israelites were. The Israelites may have been rescued and liberated, but the Lord did not approve of their celebrating the high cost of the victory. As we muddle through international affairs, Americans need to consider that Old Testament concept.

- I salute the lost lives of 3,000 servicemen and women in Iraq as well as those who have died in Afghanistan. I respect them, appreciate them and mourn their loss. Courage and commitment to things greater than ourselves is always praiseworthy. The violence in Iraq will not end soon. I just hope our nation does not continue to make things worse. We need to get out now!

- I salute the life of a young woman I never knew -- Liz Warke Brem. Liz was a fellow graduate of the Bronx High School of Science (more than a decade later), a graduate of Barnard and Yale Law School, and one of the only Hispanic partners at California's largest law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP. I received an email that this rising star, devoted mother and community servant recently died while rock climbing. She and her cousin were doing something they loved to do. One slipped, the other attempted to assist; both fell and died. Liz, only 35 years old, accomplished much in her life and was loved by many. Like those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, this was a tragedy for all.

We don't know what tomorrow may bring, so let's try to enjoy our lives and celebrate the good things while we can!

May 2007 Be Heavenly For Everyone !!!

My hopes for the new year are simple: peace on earth and good will towards all. Nothing more. Yeah, built into those two concepts are all of the world's problems and all its history. No one ever accused me of being pessimistic.

So here is one New Year's wish.

I hope Barack Obama runs for President.

Yes, I am going on the record with this one -- despite being a New Yorker, a politico, a media wannabe and a very wary admirer of Senator Hillary Clinton's. I have a few strong criticisms of our junior Senator -- particularly regarding her handling of the Iraq disaster -- but I am unlikely to withhold my vote to make her my President if she becomes the Democratic nominee. She has earned serious consideration in her own right.

Whether or not or not she should be the nominee, however, is determined by a process greatly improved by higher-quality opposition during the primary election season -- and before. And who better to challenge the queen of "common ground" pleas than the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who has himself declared that "no one is exempt from the call to find common ground." Obama provides quality opposition and should be subjected to the same testing as Clinton. After all, the flawed Democratic winner will have to beat some tough -- if flawed -- Republicans, so the practice rounds should start now.

Obama has nothing to lose by running -- not even his Senate seat. He could win the nomination for President or Vice President, or even win the Presidency -- fortune can favor the bold. Senator Obama is as smart and charismatic as JFK, he's from a state that is not in the northeast, he's tall, and he has his own crosses to bear, so to speak. JFK had religion; his Catholicism was a burning issue for some. Obama has race -- and he knows that race is an issue with both whites and Blacks. And he also has his name -- Barack Hussein Obama -- something various bigoted Americans have chosen to focus on.

The Democratic Party's most loyal supporters are African Americans; everyone knows this. It is about time that not one but two candidates with great appeal to these voters -- Obama and Clinton -- seek the highest office in the land. Vice President Al Gore's 2000 candidacy for President was not weakened by the challenge of former Senator Bill Bradley's campaign. Neither Gore nor Bradley, however, had the appeal to Black voters by the end of their respective efforts that both Obama and Clinton already have before theirs even start. The other Democratic candidates, including former Senator John Edwards, have a long way to go.

Obama's campaign would be special to so many Americans. As Minnesota Congressman-elect Keith Ellison has broken new ground for "Islamic Americans" seeking higher office, even if unsuccessful, Barack Obama will be the pioneer for future African American, Latino and other immigrant candidates for our nation's top offices -- and particularly for moderate progressives. Obama is the natural next level from the Jackson-Sharpton Presidential campaign efforts. (And for those of us of multiple racial heritages, he is already a shining star.)

There will be no Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket. We all know that. It's too "liberal" a combination for most of America at this point in time. But Mark Warner, Evan Bayh and others understand that they could end up as valuable VP choices to either of the Big 2 -- or even to neither of the Big 2 (Democratic Senators have been less successful than Democratic Governors at winning the Presidency -- as Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack would like us to remember). The election is just under two years away, and history tells us that early stardom does not guarantee the nomination to anyone. Money certainly helps, however, and each of the Big 2 have it and can raise it. So let's test how they spend it.

The huge challenge for the two Senators is to be more than simply civil to each other -- they have to be really nice to each other. Each cannot afford to alienate the primary constituencies of the other. Each should simply make the best case for their leadership. Vision and experience matter in this race, so let Americans really get that sense of who each candidate is. There will be many conflicted Democrats who should make their decisions based upon every possible issue except for negative campaigning. (For in the end, an effective negative war between the Big 2 will certainly prevent the winner from getting the biggest prize of them all.)

Personally speaking, I can't wait for a one-on-one debate between Clinton and Obama. That will be a treat for political junkies and the general public alike. A Clinton-Obama-Edwards debate will be equally compelling.

Neither Clinton nor Obama will prove perfect, however. Each has baggage (significant or otherwise). More importantly, the current corporate culture in Washington is an issue for Obama and Clinton alike. Clinton has been roundly criticized for her past affiliations with Wal-Mart and the contributions she has accepted from health care's corporate interests. And the campaign finance and political allegiance issue is a problem for every Washington inside player who seeks higher office.

In the November 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine, Washington editor Ken Silverstein raised red flags regarding Obama's political maneuverings -- particularly with regard to the perceived influence of big money on his voting behavior ("Barack Obama Inc.: The birth of a Washington machine.") There is great irony here, given the strong relationship between Obama and Citizen Action with its clean elections campaign, for example.

"Gone are the days when, as in the 1970s, the U.S. Senate could comfortably house such men as Fred Harris ... who called for the breakup of theoil, steel, and auto industries; as Wisconsin's William Proxmire ... a crusader against big banks who neither spent nor raised campaign money; as South Dakota's George McGoern, who favored huge cuts in defense spending and guaranteed income for all Americans ... Today, money has all but wrung such dissent from the Senate."

Silverstein quotes a long-time political Democratic strategist, Carl Wagner. "Today, [senators] are creatures of the people who pay for their multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns. Representative democracy has been largely been taken off the table. It's reminiscent of the 1880s and 1890s, when senators were chosen by state legislatures who were owned by the railroads and the banks."

After disgust over Iraq, disgust with Washington is bubbling and ready to burst.

In the "Politics" chapter of his best-selling book, The Audacity of Hope, Senator Obama dwells on the insidious manner in which the need for money in politics has possibly altered his behavior -- if not his positions. Obama then offers a response of sorts with the following (Page 128): "From what I've observed, there are countless politicians who have crossed these hurdles and kept their integrity intact, men and women who raise campaign contributions without being corrupted, garner support without being held captive by special interests, and manage the media without losing their sense of self."

This dilemma is not unique to Obama, as noted, but such matters can easily tarnish one who is viewed as potentially different -- a role model for the new approach to politics.

We know that Senator John McCain and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani have plenty of baggage as well. And so the 2008 November election will be a bloodbath. All the more reason why the Democratic nominee should be the psychologically and spiritually equipped survivor of worthy opposition.

So, Barack (we like to use first names, you know), what do you do now? Some advice from the peanut gallery:

1. Don't miss your Senate votes while you are campaigning -- at least not during 2007. Take every opportunity you can to speak on the floor in a less scripted manner. Highlight for the unconvinced the blend of passion and oratorical elegance that has brought you thus far on your way -- and add a strong dash of spontaneity. Force yourself to stay fresh on the issues and keep people talking 'bout you -- for free.

2. Be "the progressive" and consolidate "the left" and it's grass roots voter appeal. Your position on Iraq has yet to crystallize or resonate with anyone -- let alone the Democratic progressives (after all, you supported Lieberman over Lamont!) You cannot simply compete for Clinton's voters, you need to win all of the Clinton doubters and, more importantly, the disaffected progressives who may look to former VP candidate and "new populist" John Edwards or to perennial working class progressive champion Dennis Kucinich. It was leftist icon Alexander Cockburn who blasted you in The Nation (4/24/2006) for endorsing the re-election bid of Senator Joe Lieberman (CT), declaring: "What a slimy fellow Obama is, as befits a man symbolizing everything that will continue to be wrong with the Democratic Party for the next twenty years." Why be outflanked on the left? You are a progressive; it is in your blood. Don't run away from it. Bridge the unnecessary gap between leftist whites and the heart of the African American community. You can do it like no one else.

You also do not need Rev. Sharpton to replicate his 2004 candidacy and muddle African American focus. Don't give Sharpton any opening on key issues such as Iraq, the legacy of Condoleeza Rice, police brutality, support for public education, and the Democratic Party's commitment to urban youth. In addition, African American critics of your voting history have rated you (along with many Congressional Black Caucus colleagues) as far less progressive than might be considered appropriate by the Black community -- or others. In The Audacity of Hope, you yourself identify the challenge of being either too angry or not angry enough when dealing with racial issues and with American whites who have "exhausted" their reservoir of guilt. When these tough conversations take place, are you an American citizen who happens to be black? Or will you blend your attractiveness to white voters with your potential status as political royalty within the Black community?

3. Make sure your Senate Committee work provides you with as much foreign policy and intelligence exposure as possible -- and immediately bring onto your brain trust the best experts in these areas that you can. The Presidential media will test you on every question -- as will academics. The need to be prepared is an understatement.

4. Personally call every African American leader you can -- everywhere -- and ask for their support now. Define "leader" broadly. Start with New York, North Carolina and Louisiana, then do every primary state. Start the volunteer organizing now; you've been there before, so you know what to do. If you don't have at least 40% of those you reach on board with you by July 1, you will have a problem.

5. We all know a stump speech is an essential part of every campaign. Please abandon certain stories and humor lines, however, that have been overused to date either through speeches or in your writings. You can't be the fresh, new and inspirational candidate if we know by heart all the lines about your name, your King "arc of justice" references, etc. You've got to be different in many, many ways.

6. You have already mastered almost everything else ... times ten thousand.

7. Remember that Clinton & Edwards et al are doing the same things. But you are the celebrity of the moment.


Well, there's my first salvo on the 2008 Presidential election.

I wish you, dear readers, all the best in the new year. I wish all the new elected officials the strength and integrity they need to move America forward. Good luck to New York's new Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.

Happy New Year!