The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

September 1, 2013

Looking deeper in Obama's MLK speech

Why it matters: While some will focus on perceived divisiveness in the speech, we see areas where we can agree and be inspired if given the chance.

Following President Obama’s speech during the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington DC, conservative commentators were focusing on these words from the president:

“We shouldn’t fool ourselves. The task will not be easy. Since 1963, the economy has changed. The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class — reduced the bargaining power of American workers. And our politics has suffered. Entrenched interests, those who benefit from an unjust status quo, resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal — marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools, that all these things violated sound economic principles. We’d be told that growing inequality was a price for a growing economy, a measure of this free market; that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

“And then, there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth — that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity; that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.”

These commentators were quick to accuse the president of using the event to push his agenda. The Wall Street Journal said the president was using a “moral bludgeon against those who disagree with his policies” and characterizing his opponents as “Gordon Gekko without the social conscience.” But we call attention to what immediately followed the words by the president, an observation in which many of differing viewpoints could agree on:

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