Dream of racial equality continues with Obama

By By Chris Kamrani

By Chris Kamrani

I recall exactly what he said.

On Nov. 4, 2008, former Illinois senator Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States and the first black person to be elected to the presidency. That night, my father, a 54-year-old Iranian who moved to the United States in 1978, called me.

“It happened,” he said with emotion. “Now you can be president.”

He proceeded to ramble off, verbatim, sentences that Obama had spoke in his acceptance speech that night in Chicago.

“(Obama’s) exactly like you, Chris,” my father said. “Anything is possible now.”

I am the son of an Iranian father and an American mother. Much like Obama, my father came to the United States 31 years ago to attend college, further his life and further his dreams.

Ironically, that same day, I was required to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” for one of my classes.

It all clicked.

The notion of a Democrat replacing a fading Republican didn’t matter one iota. It was a dream realized8212;a dream accomplished.

Five decades earlier, King called out injustice and stood toe-to-toe with the face of true evils. Budge he did not. King, with millions of others, turned a much-needed eye toward the violation of everything that was constitutional and right.

On Aug. 28, 1963, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and proclaimed his desire to a nation in despair. He broadcast his dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'” King said.

Forty-five years later, the dream has been grasped.

On that snowy November night in Salt Lake City, I vividly remember leaving my night class to a hoard of text messages from friends and family.

“Oh my god, he did it!” one read.

A good friend of mine who had recently returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Capetown, South Africa, called me to tell me that he honestly had no words to express how he felt. My friend had voted for Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, but he knew that this occasion was momentous and he referenced his experiences in South Africa and even mentioned King.

“I’m proud to be an American tonight,” my friend told me.

King’s dreams and aspirations were reached on that November night. The race between Obama and McCain was a landslide for the 47-year-old from the South Side of Chicago. The final electoral vote outcome of 365 to 173 was much like a blowout in a championship game8212;the crowd eagerly waited to hear the official words and watch the clock run down.

Obama will be inducted as newest president today. On Jan. 20, 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was stamped into the books.

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Today is a new day. Today, we, as a nation, put aside the brutal and cruel past that has haunted our nation for hundreds of years and we press forward.

In his acceptance speech on Nov. 4, Obama spoke of a 106-year-old woman named Ann Nixon Cooper. A woman who endured more than 10 decades of frequent oppression and sometimes meaningful change, Cooper cast her ballot in Atlanta, putting her stamp on this election8212;something she couldn’t do until the 1960s because of the color of her skin.

Exactly a year ago today, Obama spoke about King and said, “King inspired with words not of anger, but of an urgency that still speaks to us today.”

Later on the night of the election, I thought of what my father had told me.

Anything is possible now.

In the last sentence from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King said, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

Amen.

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Chris Kamrani