by Paul Robeson, Jr.
I am deeply honored to be able to participate in this gathering of elders, and to address the urgent task of protecting our young children. To achieve this goal, we shall have to empower our communities politically and economically. And to achieve this, we shall have to challenge the present political system at its roots.
What I have heard here today has given me hope and inspiration. And, generally, I agree with most of what has been said, but I differ in one respect.
I believe that, on the whole, both the elders and the younger generation have done the best they could under the circumstances they found themselves in. They had the courage to sail in uncharted waters, even though they lacked the vision and experience to avoid disasters.
Today their achievements are inspiring, and their mistakes are instructive. And because our respective experiences and the outlooks shaped thereby differ widely, we have a great deal to learn from each other.
Let us be mindful of the fact that the time for study is short, for the call to action is already sounding.
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My personal value system differs from the one taught by the traditional U.S. civic culture. It stems from six main ethical principles which were passed on to me by my father, the son of an escaped field slave.
- Try to be the best that you can possibly be. Aim for perfection.
- Success without advancing the interests of our people as a whole, is worthless.
- The human race is one family with diverse but equal members having different cultures.
- Personal growth is the mother of greatness, but its price is pain and perseverance.
- Temper strength and power with gentleness and compassion; balance courage with wisdom.
- Don't go along to get along. Be willing to sacrifice to do what you know is right.
I come to urge you to accept two common tasks: to speak truth to power, and to mobilize fully the political and economic power we have as a people in pursuit of our legitimate interests.
Black political power is sufficient to change american politics. In 2008, if the black turnout increases to 14 percent of the total electorate from the 13 percent recorded in 2004, blacks could potentially deliver a 17.0 million vote advantage to whomever we choose.
The vast majority of blacks are concerned with results, rather than with personalities. For me, these results are encapsulated in the following four universal demands:
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- Equal economic opportunity and equal treatment for all U.S. citizens, ultimately enforced by the federal government under the equal treatment clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- The formal acknowledgement, in the form of an amendment to the preamble of the U.S Constitution, which states that one of the purposes of our envisioned "more perfect union" is to secure universal human rights as the undeniable birthright of every human being on the sovereign territory of the United States, and that our nation honors that birthright with regard to every human being on earth.
- Acceptance of the principle that the promotion of the "general welfare" mandated by the preamble to the U.S Constitution is best served by guidelines based on President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal", and President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address.
- The task before us is not to reform or transform the corrupt and rotten infrastructure of our nation; rather, it is to rebuild it anew on the basis of the behest residing in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States - "the promotion of the general welfare."
Today's political status quo is held immovably in place by a moribund and thoroughly corrupt two-party system. It can no longer be mended, so it must be ended.
To achieve this result, it is necessary to create a mass third party that will appeal directly to the real "swing voters" - the forty two percent of eligible voters, most of them with annual incomes under $30,000, who did not vote in 2004.
This third party would be a progressive party whose stated goal is government of the people, by the people for the people, in place of the present government of corporate power, by corporate power, for corporate power.
It should be a party based on the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and opposed to the tradition of Jefferson Davis, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. I believe that it is no longer possible to maintain any compromise between these two antithetical traditions.
To create such a progressive party it is necessary for progressives in the Democratic party to launch an uncompromising struggle to take power from the liberals.
If this succeeds, then today's Democratic party will become tomorrow's Progressive party. If it fails, then the progressives should leave to found a new, progressive party.
This process has already taken place in the labor movement:
In effect, the AFL-CIO has split into its original AFL (liberal) and CIO (progressive) components.
Every political party or faction needs a symbolic leadership - a preferred presidential ticket. An example for progressives inside the Democratic party could be John Edwards for president and Barack Obama for vice president. This powerful pair could serve as an immediate inspiration for a grass-roots progressive bid for power within the Democratic party.
A Progressive party preferred ticket could be envisioned in a similar way. The strongest choice would be Colin Powell for president and John Edwards for vice president.
In his autobiography, Powell wrote:
I am a fiscal conservative with a social conscience.
This sounds about as good as Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy sounded before they were elected president. Besides, Powell would be running on a progressive platform with an economic populist as his running mate. He's worth a try. More than one slave rebellion was led by a house slave.
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I have found my philosophy, if not my political affiliation. Neither of the two major parties fits me comfortably in its present state....
I distrust rigid ideology from any direction, and I am discovering that many Americans feel just as I do. The time may be at hand for a third major party to emerge to represent this sensible center of the American political spectrum.
I asked my father once whether he had a role model or a hero. He said, "No." I asked him, "Why not?" and he answered as follows (I am paraphrasing):
I am my own role model. I have no heroes. Jesus of Nazareth is my inspiration. When you find him within yourself, you will find his way.
From then on, he left me to own devices in this matter, and I have been following his advice ever since. I came here because Harry Belafonte asked me to, and also to pursue my quest to find the way. Now I know I came to the right place. Let us get on with the work we are all commanded to do.
Our prophets have come, empowered us, and departed. Now we, like our counterparts in every corner of mother earth, hold our destiny in our own hands.
It was through Rev. King that the meek freed themselves from psychological bondage to seek their own destiny on the strength of their own free will.
Martin got to the mountain-top and saw the promised land. He saw it through the blood and tears of Gandhi, Robeson, Malcolm. His spirit helped to lead others to that mountain-top: the Chinese youth who sang "We shall overcome" in Tien An Men Square, the Polish workers of the solidarity movement who sang it as they marched, the German youth who sang it as they tore down the Berlin wall, Nelson Mandela who overcame apartheid to liberate South Africa.
Now the time has come when the meek shall inherit the earth.
Henceforth, let none trouble us, for we bear in our bodies the marks of Jesus.
Great God Almighty we all are free at last!
It is time for us to tread the way into the promised land. Some will get there, some not.
The spirit of our Moses has brought us to this place. The spirit of our Joshua shall lead us to the promised land where there are no walls.
And all those who survive until the day of arrival of the host of the meek from every corner of this green earth shall join hands and shout as one: