Tuesday, January 22, 2008


On the Doorstep

40 years ago this April, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in the pulpit of a Memphis, Tennessee church and with his sanctified imagination stood on the mountain top, gazed over and saw the Promised Land that would be created by his dream. Despite that vivid trip, he knew that he would not get there with us.

The next day a gun shot rang out from across the parking lot of the Lorraine Motel and shattered the quiet peace of that early spring evening in Memphis. That gunshot also felled the dreamer. The architect of America’s dream was gone and many thought that the dream had died with him. That night one could not help but think of the scripture from Genesis chapter 37 verses 19 and 20:

"Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other. Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."

Four decades later what has come of his dream?

While the dreamer may be gone, his vision did not die with him that day on the balcony; nor did the dream. Each generation since then has acted as the custodian of that dream – moving us from the mountain top through the thicket and rugged terrain that is America’s rocky path toward freedom and equality to the reality of the Promised Land.

That generational journey has brought us to the doorstep of the once unimaginable Promised Land. From this doorstep we have two choices. One we can shrink from our generational responsibility and relinquish our historic custodial role.

We can accept the recent nightmares of nooses being hung on professors’ doors at Columbia and Maryland Universities, on the properties of the Coast Guard, hanging from trees in Jena, Louisiana or darkly adorning the cover of a popular sports magazine; and

We can accept the nightmarish racial taunting of a young man in Steamboat Springs and students of color on campus of the University of Virginia; and

We can accept people, according to the ominous article in yesterday’s Denver Post, that there are some people across the south who will “never vote for an African-American” for president of the United States; and

We can accept the horrendous readiness and achievement gap that some students suffer simply because of where they live, the devastating impact of health disparities and lack of economic stability and empowerment; and

We can accept the new un-King-like divisions in America. A burgeoning new class system that highlights the remaining inequity in America which has created as one presidential candidate so eloquently speaks of as two Americas.

On the doorstep we have two choices: one is to support these problems by ignoring their existence and hoping all those issues go away or through our stony silence. But as Rev. King once said “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” So let us shake the shackles of caution, convenience and silence, open our mouths and choose the other option.

The other option on the doorstep is for us to be bold, innovative and inclusive, accepting our generational charge. From our position on the doorstep we can now glimpse into the Promised Land and see the America Dr. King dreamed of and unlock the door to a better tomorrow and make a dream come true.

We can stand on the doorstep and glimpse into the Promised Land and see:

African-Americans running fortune 500 companies;

An African-American Governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts;

2.3 million African-Americans in college, an increase of 1 million in 15 years;

African-American-owned businesses that generated nearly $90 billion in revenue last year; and

See a steady increase in median income.

We can stand on the doorstep and steal a glimpse of the most diverse field of presidential candidates in the history of America. A Mormon winning in Wyoming, Nevada and Michigan; A women winning in New Hampshire and Nevada and an African-American winning in Iowa and winning 11 of 17 counties in Nevada, including some of the most rural counties in the silver state.

From that doorstep we can glimpse into the Promised Land and see another state in the west which recently elected its Senate’s lone African-American as only the third African American president of a state Senate in the history of the United States.

It is that latter choice that I hope we take. That we accept the role of generational custodian of the dream and actually be the generational custodian that finds the combination that unlocks the door and allows America to enter fully into the promise land.

We can now see what has become of the dream, we can see that it can be and actually is close to being realized for all Americans. Not just African-Americans or people of color or the poor, but for everyone.

But as we stand on the doorstep, understand that the combination to unlock the gate to the Promised Land is in all of us and each morning when I bang the gavel I hope that it awakens the dreamer in all of us. And in each day that we stand on the doorstep we find somehow and some way to discover the combination that will open the lock so that we can all march into the Promised Land together. Not as blacks or whites or Hispanics; or men or women or children; or as Christians or Jews, straight or gay, Democrats or Republicans, Conservatives or Liberals but as God’s children realizing a vision of a dreamer who wanted nothing more than America to fulfill her awesome potential in a land swept with equality and justice.

May God bless you, May God bless the dreamer and may God continue to bless the great state of Colorado.