(NNPA)—When Barack Obama accepted his party’s presidential nomination in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008—the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech”—excitement filled the air.
Amid that jubilance, however, it struck me as odd that Obama failed to mention Dr. King by name.
“…And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream,” Obama said at the time.
Seconds later, he would add: “‘We cannot walk alone,’ the preacher cried. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
When Obama was inaugurated for the second time on Jan. 21, the day we officially celebrated as the King federal holiday, I knew—or thought I knew—that President Obama would not make that same omission again.
I listened carefully as he said: “We the people declare today that the most evident of truth 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.”
Why couldn’t President Obama utter Dr. King’s name on the day he used the slain civil rights leader’s Bible to be sworn in? On King’s birthday, why couldn’t he be called more than just a preacher?
Even though Beyoncé lip-synced the National Anthem on Inauguration Day, she hasn’t been accused of faking it when she sings another song—“Say My Name.”
If you ain’t running a game
Say my name, say my name
The problem is larger than the failure to say Dr. King’s name. The problem, according to Michael Eric Dyson, is that, “This president runs from race like a Black man runs from a cop.”
When candidate Obama was forced to address the issue of race in the wake of controversial remarks by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor, he said in Philadelphia: “But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.”
However, that’s exactly what he has been doing.

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