Given that I am writing this during the week of amazing events in our national history, I have to detour from writing on psychotherapy issues and add my words to what is being written at this momentous time. This week saw two such events. The first, which was truly a foundation for the second, was the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday. Had he not been slain, he would have been 80 years old. The second event, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, surely could never have occurred had it not been for the work of Dr. King and others to bring about greater racial equality. (This work is still not finished as injustice still effects many Americans today.) It is astonishing to think that not so many years ago Mr. Obama’s father, black people in general, would not have been served in restaurants throughout the country. That it was just in 1964 that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and a year later the Voting Rights Act.
On this past Monday, the national day of honoring Dr. King, I had the very good fortune while driving to hear the “I Have a Dream” speech. That speech, Dr. King’s eloquence, but also his wisdom and vision for true equality, never fails to move me to tears. One phrase kept resounding in my ears: “the fierce urgency of now.” (“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now.”) That phrase seems so appropriate today, as we must deal with so many pressing issues and crises. Not only is there the current economic crisis effecting so many, there is also the need for health care for all and equal rights no matter ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
This week in particular, after hearing Dr. King’s speech, I’m mindful of the “fierce urgency of now” that brings many people into psychotherapy. The urgency to change their lives, to find more meaning, happiness and purpose and to improve their relationships with others and themselves.
And then there was that other event on Tuesday. I continue to stare in amazement and disbelief at photos of Barack Obama. There is our new President. A man of color, of mixed race. An intelligent man, an articulate man. And it would seem a fair and just man. And indeed hope permeates the air. And it really does feel like a sea change from where we’ve been.
And I think of what a client shared with me this week. He was remarking on the fact that someone with a name very different than John Smith (or for that matter George Bush) was now the President. He felt as if there were more opportunities now for him, also someone with a name very different than John Smith. My client showed me that the election of Barack Obama has already opened doors of equality and opportunity. Just to have a President with such a different sounding name.
In closing, one majestic and awe-inspiring passage from Martin Luther King:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom 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!