US still making progress

Today’s the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a reflection of how far our nation has come and a reminder that we still have far to go.

Nearly a half century ago in the midst of widespread segregation and discrimination, King focused attention on the divisions and inequities in our society. And he implored people to create a better world.

In August 1963, King inspired millions when in a speech on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., he told of his dream, including: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Today’s second public inauguration of Barack Obama as president shows the strides we have made as a nation. In 2008 and 2012, Americans judged the presidential candidates not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and twice a black man was chosen over his white rival.

Obama privately took the oath of office on Sunday in accordance with the Constitution and will repeat it today in a grand public ceremony. Traditionally, public inaugurations are not held on Sundays, hence the delay to today and the fortunate overlap with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Such an outcome would have seemed unthinkable in King’s day, when there were white-only water fountains and African-Americans were barred from numerous establishments.

King told his audience in 1963 that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, “the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”

Clearly we have made progress, but prejudice lingers and discrimination still occurs, although at least now such action is widely condemned and people are better equipped to fight it.

Our nation has not achieved the utopia as outlined in King’s inspiring speech. But we’re a lot closer than we were.

Today, as we celebrate our progress and cheer on our 45th president as he embarks on a second term in office, let us rededicate ourselves to achieving King’s vision before the centennial anniversary of that 1963 speech.