IN STUMP and victory speeches Mitt Romney characterizes President Obama as “the most pessimistic president’’ ever. Then Romney deftly promises to lead the charge to “save the soul of America.’’ I have yet to see another candidate or media fact-checker call attention to this unacknowledged appropriation of a slogan of the and the civil rights movement.
More than 50 years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his colleagues in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference proclaimed an audacious hope in speaking of saving the soul of America. Their freedom movement spoke to hopes for equality for all, as did Democratic candidate Barack Obama just four years ago.
As an educator I am enraged at how Romney and his speechwriters have lifted this phrase. Yet I keep on keeping on, teaching young people and adults about the unacceptability of this approach, and telling the real story of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, its context and its achievements. “The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate,’’ said King in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Historical amnesia and misappropriation are part of that tide.
Loretta J. Williams