“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
The phraseology is very King like and the reference of course is to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who frequently attempted to create an internationalist perspective in pursuing justice. The precise reference is to his “I Have a Dream Speech” fifty years ago at the opposite end of the Mall in August 1963 at the March on Washington.
Seneca Falls in 1848 is considered the birth of the women’s movement in the US. Although Quaker James Mott was the chairperson of the New York event, it is a founding moment of organisation and documentation of the struggle for gender equality.
Selma was where a brutal suppression of a voting-rights march across the Edmund Pettus bridge took place in 1965 as civil rights marches attempted to walk to Montgomery, the state capitol and former capitol of the Confederacy. King gave perhaps his greatest speech, “How Long, Not Long” where he intoned, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Even though he adapted that phrase from the 19th century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, it has become associated with King and Obama.
Using the word “gay” for the first time in American inaugural history, Mr Obama’s reference to Stonewall was the big surprise of the address. This was a gay bar in New York City that police raided. Its gay patrons fought back against the harassment and this led to the emergence of the gay and lesbian liberation struggle. While probably Dewey’s restaurant in Philadelphia should get the prize with a sit-in for gay rights, nevertheless Stonewall in 1969 is the chosen catalyst for the movement. For this event to appear in a presidential inaugural is momentous as a new iconic marker on the road for justice and equality. The image below is the first anniversary of Stonewall that led to the annual pride parade events in primarily blue states in the disUnited States of America. President Obama’s oblique but obvious reference to gay marriage is also the first time that issue ever appeared in an inaugural address
It was refreshing that the president spoke about peace and not merely war as a means of defending the empire. I did not hear the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” or “Afghanistan” or “Al Qaeda” or threatening to kill folks with our wonderful militaristic legion of killers who volunteer for the honour. It was a real peace-oriented, justice-oriented address. The best I ever heard and I voted for Dr Jill Stein, Green Party!!