LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL

If yesterday’s brief quotations left you wanting more, here is the Reverend King’s famous letter from Birmingham Jail, dated Aril 16, 1963. Two of my favorite passages:

We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation – and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

. . .

One day the South will recognize its real heroes. There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. There will be the old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” There will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

ANOTHER QUOTE I LIKE

This one, from Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

There used to be a social contract about the reasonable division of the gains that arise from acting together within the economy. Within corporations, the pay of the leader might be 10 or 20 times that of the average worker. But something happened 30 years ago, as the era of Thatcher/Reagan was ushered in. There ceased to be any sense of fairness; it was simply how much the executive could appropriate for himself. It became perfectly respectable to call it incentive pay, even when there was little relationship between pay and performance. In the finance sector, when performance is high, pay is high; but when performance is low, pay is still high. The bankers knew – or should have known – that while high leverage might generate high returns in good years, it also exposed the banks to large downside risks. But they also knew that under their contracts, this would not affect their bonuses.

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So today we find out whether progress will become even harder to make – if the opposition party is able to win Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat – or whether it will just remain very, very hard.

My friend Peter Stolz has written some ads he’d like to have see up on TV for this race, and for pretty much any others.

The first would just show all the landmark progressive legislation over the decades that the Republican Party has reliably and reflexively opposed – from Social Security and Medicare to the minimum wage, health insurance for kids, stem cell research, hate crimes legislation, tobacco regulation, and on and on. “The Party of No.” The “G. No. P.” And so on. (His proposed tag line: “Vote Democratic, the party that votes YES for the American People.”)

The second would quote Republicans:

Voice Over: Here’s what Republicans had to say about the President’s economic plan.

Republican Rep. Joel Hefley said: “It will raise your taxes, increase the deficit, and kill over one million jobs.”

Republican Rep. John Kasich said: “This plan will not work…your economic program is a job killer.”

Republican Newt Gingrich said: “I believe this will lead to a recession next year.”

Republican Dick Armey said: “Clearly this is a job killer in the short run. The impact on job creation is going to be devastating.”

Republican Phil Gramm said: “Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose their jobs because of this bill, and the President will be one of them.”

Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad said: The Democrats’ plan “will stifle economic growth, destroy jobs, reduce revenues, and increase the deficit.”

Republican Rep. Phil Crane said: It’s “a recipe for economic and fiscal disaster.”

Voice Over: The only problem is, all these Republican quotes were from 1993 after President Bill Clinton passed his budget without a single Republican vote. That budget led to the greatest economic boom in world history. Weren’t you better off with Bill Clinton and the Democrats running the economy in the 1990s? The Republicans predictions could not have been more wrong. Yet they make almost word for word the same predictions again today about President Obama’s economic programs. President Clinton left us with a projected $5 trillion surplus . . .

(Click here for more predictions of financial disaster that were completely wrong.)

And wait! There’s more!

Voice Over: Here are a few quotes from Republicans about the President’s economic proposal.

Republican Rep. John Taber: “Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people.”

Republican Rep. Daniel Reed: “The lash of the dictator will be felt and 25 million free American citizens will for the first time submit themselves to a fingerprint test.”

Republican Rep. James W. Wadsworth: “This bill opens the door and invites the entrance into the political field of a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants.”

Voice Over: Did you recognize those quotes? Were they from town hall meetings this past summer? From Tea Party gatherings? They sure sound like it don’t they? But actually these are quotes from 1935 when Social Security was proposed and passed by FDR and the Democrats and the entire Republican Party predicted disaster. . . . Vote Democratic, the party that votes YES for the American people.”

☞ If Martha Coakley wins today, progress will be a little easier to achieve. If she loses – whether your issue is health care or education or energy independence, the environment, the Supreme Court, or equal rights – we’ll all just have to roll up our sleeves even a little further.

 

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