News Release: Politics

Jan. 20,  2009

Inauguration Commentary: Obama Helps Nation Realize King's "Beloved Community"

Emory University's Rudolph P. Byrd, Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies, is in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. An engaged scholar committed to service at the local and national levels, Byrd is the founder and director of Emory's James Weldon Johnson Institute, which fosters new scholarship, teaching and public dialogue on the origins, evolution and legacy of the modern civil rights movement.

He offered these thoughts on the significance of the inauguration of now-President Barack Obama:

"Occurring in the same year as the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and the centenary of the founding of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People, the inauguration of Barack H. Obama as the President of the United States possesses enormous symbolic significance.

As a symbol of the outsider (the immigrant, the stranger in the village, the gay and lesbian) and as a member of a racial group who still constitutes "a peculiar and powerful interest," he is evidence that the United States remains a place of infinite possibility. As the bridge between the generation of Americans who lived the modern civil rights movement and those who know this noble social movement only as history, President Obama is proof that our nation has made significant progress in realizing what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called "the beloved community."

As a leader who rises above ideology and who brings a message of hope and pragmatism, he calls us to the recognition that "We are not enemies, but friends" to summon the words of Lincoln. The embodiment of difference, he is potentially the bridge across all our lines of difference. These elements and more constitute the basis of President Obama’s national appeal and will define his historic presidency."

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