In Her Words
MLK, Barack Obama, and My Children
Dreams really do come true
My husband looked at my three children, searching for the words to explain to them what the election of Barack Obama meant to him. Raw emotion was on his face and in his voice when he spoke to them.
My children are very familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King. We’ve watched his speeches, and we make him a birthday cake every January. Just six days before the election, we had the amazing opportunity to have lunch with Dr. King’s son, and my 11-year-old was able to shake his hand and ask him, “What is your dream?” So when my husband led the conversation with “When Dr. King delivered the ‘I have a dream’ speech,” my children knew exactly what he was talking about.
“When Dr. King said ‘I have a dream that one day … children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,”‘ he paused here, and looked into their faces. He was looking at the faces of three Black children who have never been called ‘nigger,’ have never had rocks thrown at them, and have never been told “we don’t have colored bathrooms here.” Could they possibly understand what he was trying to say? Could I as a white woman really understand it?
“When he said those words,” my husband continued, “I was 6 years old. Barack Obama was 2 years old. He was talking about us. We were the children that Dr. King was fighting for. And now one of those children is going to be President of the United States.”
I don’t really know if my children totally ‘get it.’ Honestly, I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t had the experience of growing up Black when there were still lines you couldn’t cross, could possibly understand what this election meant for those who did.
And though I don’t know anybody more excited about this election than me, I have been rather awestruck at the intense emotion it has provoked. Black Americans, young and old, are feeling a kind of hope that has been missing for a very long time. Young people are saying for the first time they feel like they want to go to college. Older people feel as though the struggles they have had to endure might not be revisited on their children and grandchildren.
I asked my husband why it took Obama to make people feel this way – why didn’t Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice or any of the other intelligent, accomplished, and famous African Americans instill this kind of hope. My husband’s answer was this: “Having a Black President makes us feel like we finally belong here. Like this is really our country, too.”
I believe that’s what Dr. King’s dream was all about. In the final words of his final speech, Dr. King said “And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”
Thanks to Barack Obama, the promised land is here, and now.
Jennifer Trannon is a former public school teacher who is currently staying home to care for her three children. She can be reached at Trannon@msn.com.
Caption: The Trannon children, Alex (11), Alia (9) and Elijah (5), with Martin Luther King III.