Inauguration date highlights MLK, LBJ achievements
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 11:01
The second inauguration of President Barack Obama officially wrapped up Jan. 21, which also happened to be Martin Luther King Jr. day.
It also happened to be the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
For many, the fact that the inauguration fell on the MLK holiday was the perfect homage to one of the many men who paved the way for Barack Obama to become the first African American U.S. President.
“Dr. King made President Obama’s dream a reality so for him to speak on MLK Jr. day is a great way to honor him,” Bakar Posey, who visited from Indianapolis for the inauguration, said.
Pat Riley from New York shared similar sentiment.
“Rev. Dr. King made it possible for Obama to be President and I hope one day a woman can become what this great civil rights man was,” Riley said.
During the inauguration many couldn’t help but comment on the remarkable coincidence that these two events fell on the same day.
“It’s kind of amazing it falls on MLK Jr. day. I think that’s what brought a lot of people here,” Stella Blair from Chicago said.
In addition to this, it was also the first inauguration with the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial completed.
The memorial was completed in October 2011 after several years of construction, planning and building.
“This memorial is 40 years in the making and now it will be here among the other monuments for generations to come,” said Park Ranger Mike Townsend.
On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration the largest group of people the memorial has seen gathered around to pay their respects to the Civil Rights leader.
“The amount of people is amazing. This is more people than I’ve seen since the dedication,” Townsend said.
The memorial is inscribed with many famous quotes of Dr. King. One that is on the memorial, “I was a drum major,” is one that has stirred controversy among many who believe it makes Dr. King appear arrogant.
Many visitors though were happy with the memorial and believe it was a great way to honor the man, who 50 years ago revolutionized the country with his “I Have a Dream Speech.”
“I’m enjoying it so far, it looks very nice. I like the messages on it as well as the statue,” Chanel Johnson from Indiana said.
Another man who helped pave the way for President Obama was President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“President Johnson was deeply committed to advancing Civil Rights,” Ambassador James R. Jones said, “and that came from his first job out of college, in Cotulla, Texas, teaching
Ambassador Jones was the youngest person, at age 28, to hold the position of Chief of Staff, which was formerly known as the president’s Appointments Secretary.
He began working for President Johnson in 1965, one year after the Civil Rights Act was passed, and just as President Johnson was working on passing the Voting Rights Act.
“LBJ wanted to give African Americans an opportunity and to do so they have to have full voting rights, access to the financial structure of the country, and they have to have fair hearings in the court system,” Jones said. “So the Voting Rights Act was a fulfillment of his dreams.”
Jones was able to meet Martin Luther King Jr. and a number of other Civil Rights leaders while working with LBJ.
“I knew it was a very important time, and I recognized this was a significant part of history,” Jones said.
Despite President Johnson’s work, President Obama has not mentioned him and the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in many public speeches.
Jones said he believes that although he has not been as outspoken about it, President Obama recognizes he would not be where he was without the combined efforts of men like Martin Luther King Jr. and President Johnson.
“When President Obama was elected I had tears in my eyes because it was such a fulfillment of what my generation tried to do to get more equality in our society,” Jones said. “And I think for LBJ this would have been such a
proud, proud moment for our country.”