Barak Obama is the embodiment of the American Dream.
His electoral win is the culmination of a civil rights movement, that struggled for decades to end racial segregation.
Barack Obama referred to that struggle in his victory speech. He gestured at a 106-year old audience member and said:“She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the houses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told the people that ‘we shall overcome’. Yes we can”.
It was 45 years ago, when Martin Luther King made his famous “ I have a dream” speech.
On 28 August, 1963, he stood in front of 250,000 people, who had marched on Washington to urge Congress to pass civil rights legislation and said: “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing, in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
It was a high point of a civil rights movement, often carried on by ordinary people, like Rosa Parks.
In 1955, she refused to give up her seat in a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, so a white man could sit down.
Her arrest was the catalyst for a mass boycott. The black citizens of the city refused to use the segregated bus line and the seating law was overturned.
The civil rights movement was often marred by violence.
In 1966, white supremacists attacked a march in Chicago, hitting Dr King with a brick.
Two years later, King’s assassination sparked riots in Washington and across the country.
President Lyndon Johnson made a public call for calm, saying, “I ask every citizen to reject the blind violence that has strucked Dr. King who lived by non-violence”.
It has been a long road since then.
At a Baptist church in Atlanta, many gathered to honour the sacrifice of the pacifist leader who was shot and killed decades ago.
John Lewis, US congressman and civil rights campaigner said: “I want to thank Martin Luther King. He must be looking down from heaven saying, ‘Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah’.”