What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Think of Obama, Followed by Trump?

President Barack Obama and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have both been praised for their sweeping rhetorical skills, an ability to seize the moment and provide the comfort and inspiration needed. Even their detractors — and they have plenty — would admit this. To live up to his own history, President Obama had a nearly impossible task in his farewell speech on Tuesday night from his adopted hometown of Chicago.

There was also the irony of the week to come, bookended by a celebration of the life and works of King and the inauguration of the next president, Donald Trump. After all, few would place “I have a dream” and “She should be in prison” in the same universe of lofty oratory.


To Honor MLK, Stop Shouting, Start Listening

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. admonished the Southern white religious leaders who called his civil rights actions “unwise and untimely,” he did it with empathy and understanding. In his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King prefaced his own strong, morally held belief in equality by calling his critics “men of genuine good will” whose words were “sincerely set forth.” Think of it: A minister in jail, rejected by fellow men of faith, was nonetheless respectful of those who failed to come to his aid, who failed to see his fight — rooted in the words of the founders and the principles of faith — as their own.

On this day to honor him, politicians will utter and issue statements of praise for this man the nation honors, while ignoring every one of the lessons he taught. Respect those who disagree? Give them credit for being good people and patriotic Americans? Not this season.


Jesse Helms is still stirring up controversy

Jesse Helms is at it again. When the longtime North Carolina senator died on July 4, 2008, eulogies couldn’t decide if he was a statesman who stood up for his beliefs or a pugnacious politician whose divisive principles changed little as the world moved on. Now that a conservative U.S. congresswoman from the state wants to honor Helms by stamping his name on a federal building, that legacy lives on.