Mark Winston Griffith
Will Work for Justice
I rushed back from Washington DC and the inaugural festivities yesterday to be at work today. While most of the rest of white collar America has the day off, the Drum Major Institute staff is busy fulfilling its mission to build upon the legacy of Martin Luther King , Jr., the man to whom we owe our organization’s name. If you don’t know by now, Martin Luther King spoke about the “drum major” instinct to lead, and declared that he wanted to be remembered as a “drum major”, the person out in front setting the pace, for a social and economic justice movement.
There are some arguably overly convenient connections to be made between what’s happening in Washington tomorrow and the realization of Martin Luther King’s dream. A black man sworn in as president of the United States could easily be seen as a fulfillment of King’s vision that a black man could be judged by the content of his character long enough to even occupy the most powerful iconography and public station in the nation.
It’s important to remember that while Martin Luther King has since become an enduring icon himself, he will never eclipse the social movement he helped propel and the countless civil rights laws he helped inspire. As much as human kind is prone to cults of personality, Martin Luther King is most important as a symbol for ideas that transcend politics and national borders.
As we embrace Obama and all his promise, let’s never allow the political gains of this one man to overshadow the ideas that he campaigned on and engenders. Not of political pragmatism or an ability to work across the political aisle, but of the progressive public policy ideal that we fight for every day as we sit down at our desks at DMI - the idea the government can play a positive and transformative role in people’s lives. In the end, Obama is an elected servant of that idea and it is our responsibility for us as Americans to hold him accountable to it.