President Obama Projects Dr. King's Global Vision

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[To Be Equal]

Last week, President Obama made an impressive debut on the world stage in his first foreign visits -- to London for the G20 economic summit and to Strasbourg, France, where he met with his fellow NATO members.

While Obama's standout performance has practically made his status as this country's first African American president a non-issue, one cannot help but notice how he and the First Lady added a splash of color to the meetings with their European counterparts.

Obama's emergence as a world leader also reminds us that not so long ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others were roundly criticized for straying outside the accepted confines of the civil rights debate to remind us that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Forty-one years ago, on April 4, 1968, when Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, he was in the process of broadening his message from one focused exclusively on the suffering of African Americans to one that emphasized the economic, political and spiritual interdependence of all people.

He spoke out against the war in Vietnam, against apartheid in South Africa, and he made the point that while life for Black Americans was hard, "millions of poor White Americans are in economic bondage that is scarcely less oppressive." Dr. King bravely called for "a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation…" Those words are just as relevant for these times, as the world faces the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan threaten global stability.

That is why President Obama's message of global cooperation and shared responsibility and his singular brand of personal diplomacy on display at both summits, was such a welcome departure from the go-it-alone policies of the last eight years.

In London, the President helped negotiate an agreement by the leaders of the world's largest economies to make more than $1 trillion available for new lending. With the loss of another 633,000 jobs in March here at home, and unemployment now at 8.5 percent, the President emphasized that "no corner of the globe can wall itself off from the threats of the 21st century, or from the needs and concerns of fellow nations. The only way forward is through shared and persistent efforts to combat fear and want wherever they exist."

Before his NATO allies, Obama stressed the need for international cooperation in fighting the war in Afghanistan and combating al-Qaeda, saying that the terrorist group could attack any nation and that every country has a stake in its defeat.

On April 4, 1967, one year to the day before his assassination, Dr. King gave a speech at Riverside Church in New York in which he called for a revolution of values saying that, "in the final analysis our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies."

In his first foreign trip as President, Barack Obama proved to be a worthy descendent of that dream.


Morial is the President and CEO of the National Urban League

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