What mattered about the President’s speech on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech:
The fact is that the man who stood where King stood at the Lincoln Memorial today as the chief executive of the United States of America is one who would have had to have stood with King if too many white people wanted seats on the bus. He would have had to drink with King from water fountains that said “colored,” or sat in balconies instead of on the main floor of the theater, or eaten at the back door of the restaurant because no one would seat him, or walked with King past hotel after hotel until he finally came to one that would allow him to stay.
But he does not have to do any of these things. People stand when he enters. Traffic stops when he passes. The powerful call him, “Sir,” and address him not just as “Mister,” but “Mister President.” Martin Luther King Jr., had he not been slain just five years after this speech, would be 84 today and very possibly alive to see this.
And although he might have had to pinch himself to see if he was still dreaming, he would have found — I hope to his great pleasure and satisfaction — that he was not.
Of course, it’s not 1963 anymore, as some people need reminding now and then. The greatest legacy of Dr. King may be that we’ll never have to see 1963 again.