From King to Obama

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As our nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, we look at how his legacy connects to the inauguration of our nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.  We hear from Middlebury
College artist-in-residence Francois Clemmons.  He’s founder and director of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble. (Listen)

We also talk with Shirley Jefferson, the associate dean for student affairs and diversity at the Vermont Law School.  Jefferson marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.  We ask both of them about the connection they see between these two historic events, and what their feelings are as inauguration day approaches. (Listen)

And we hear from members of the Brattleboro Union High
School Marching Band. The band will represent Vermont
— and a lot of proud community boosters — in Tuesday’s Inaugural Parade.(Listen)

AP Photo/stf

AP Photo/Obama Transition Office, Pete Souza

Emails from listeners–

Steven Fesmire, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies, Green Mountain College

When I was a child in rural western Tennessee in the 70s, we lived a block from the railroad tracks that divided whites from blacks. My brother once joined a group of other white boys who posted a sign on the other side of the tracks declaring it "n….r city limits." Such physical signs are, blessedly, mostly a thing of the past now, but they persist as metaphors of a continuing divide that tends to escape the notice of my northeastern college students. An annual visit to my native south always reopens lacerations of division I’d prefer to relegate to the past. Around holiday tables that should be a place for renewal, the conversation turns each year to a person’s race as the exclusive explanation for violent crime, theft, sexual deviance, obesity, political gridlock, bad schools, financial mismanagement. Sometimes when my wife and I board the plane back to Vermont, I feel as though I’m stepping through C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe to Narnia, despite whatever racial prejudices may be hidden beneath the surface here.

With the election of President-elect Obama, I join millions of Americans who feel we’ve gotten our country back. That is not primarily a matter of race. But when I saw Jesse Jackson in tears on election night, my own joy and tears were a matter of race. My emotions were not, obviously, those of someone who fully fathomed the historic struggles in which Jackson personally participated. Mine was simply the joy of someone who knows the depth of the racial divide that persists today, and whose hope has been renewed. And this year’s holiday tables? They didn’t vote for Obama, but now they’re kind of glad he won. Now that is progress.

Truddi in Chester-

I was just invited to a celebration of Obama’s inauguration by a neighbor who has been a strong Republican for the 20+ years I have known her. This is huge progress and a very exciting trend of a meeting of the minds in our country.



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