First 100 days of Barack Obama’s Presidency: What Would Martin Luther King Say?

April 29, 2009 marked the first 100 days of Barack Obama’s presidency, which from the start inherited enormous domestic and foreign challenges from his predecessor. Obama has signed a total of 19 executive orders and 12 laws, many of them reversing decisions by the Bush Administration. While Obama deserves credit for the scale and scope of the agenda he has laid out and for confronting the challenges head-on, we must ask the question, by what standard are we evaluating the first 100 days. We choose to judge Obama by the philosophical statements and moral standards of Martin Luther King, Jr. From the outset we acknowledge that King did not have to deal with stem cell research or equal pay for women. We note too that king spoken in gender specific terms (man) rather than gender neutral (humans).

On Morality
Moral principles have lost their distinctiveness. For modern man, absolute right and wrong are a matter of what the majority is doing. The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

On the Moral Economy
Our economy must become more person-centered than property-centered and profit-centered. Let us, therefore, not think of our movement as one that seeks to integrate the [black] into all the exiting values of American society, but as one that would alter those values.

On Peace
We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process. Ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means (war), because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

On Nonviolence
Compassion and nonviolence help us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

On Social Justice
When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.

On Science and Religion

Science investigates: religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complimentary. Science keeps religion form sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science form falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.

Report Card on Barack Obama’s first 100 days

Domestic Accomplishments

Signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (equal-pay bill that expected to make it easier for workers, especially women to sue for decades-old discrimination): Grade A.  King’s sense of social justice and economic morality suggest that he would strongly support equal pay for women. King abhorred discrimination.

Expanded publicly funded health insurance for children: Grade A. King would support expanded health insurance for children. He would link their coverage with an anti-poverty effort.

Lifted the ban on stem cell research: Grade B. King respected science, but did not worship it. He would have been support of Obama’s position on stem cell research.

Initiated health care reform forums across the nation: Grade C. King would have praised Obama for initiating health care reform, but would have been unimpressive would with the insurance-based model. He would have called for single pay universal health care.

Passing a massive economic stimulus package: Grade A. King would have praised Obama for is stimulus package. King was a strong proponent of job creation.

Took steps to restore science to its proper place with regard to climate change: Grade A. Obama would have earned high marks from King on the issue of climate change. King would have seen climate change as part of the destructive capacity of which placed so much emphasis on profit and militarism.

Embarked on a transformation to a green economy: Grade A. Similar to the above, King would have given Obama a high grade. He would have seen the green economy as part of the changes need to sustain human life.

Foreign Policy

Soften the tone of White House interaction with the Muslim world: Grade C Plus. Though King would have seen Obama overture to the Muslim world as a good start, he would have been more critical of the unbalanced policy the U.S has toward the Muslims and Muslim countries. He would have been more critical of the U.S. and its allies.

Restored a sense of responsibility and re-engagement with the world Grade B Plus. King would have been supportive of humbleness which Obama has shown in engaging the world. He would have recognized the harm that the U.S. government has done in the name of the American people. Remember, it was King who said during the mid-sixties that the U. S. was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

Close the detention center at Guantanamo: Grade A. King would have strongly supported the closure of Guantanamo. He would have seen this as moral imperative.

Ramp down the war in Iraq: Grade D Minus. King would have recognized Obama’s steps to reduce America’s involvement in the Iraq War, but would have been critical of Obama’s duplicity (not withdrawing all the troops) and would have been disappointed with the blaming of the Iraqi people for the sole responsibility of restoring their country. He would have acknowledge the role the U. S. had in destroying the country and would have call for some form of restitution or a Marshall Plan.

Expand the war in Afghanistan: Grade F. King would have given Obama a failing grade for expanding the war in Afghanistan. He did not believe in using violence to solve conflicts. He would have seen violence as a destructive mean for achieving a peaceful end.

Called for an end to nuclear weapons: Grade A. Obama’s position on ending nuclear weapons would have earned King’s support. He would have seen the proliferation of nuclear weapons as wasteful and immoral.

Banned the use of torture: Grade C. King would have given Obama high marks on his ban on the use of torture. But he would have been unsupportive of Obama’s position on not holding those accountable who engaged in torture.

Willingness to engage with countries whose interests and ideas diverge from ours–notably Iran, Russia and Cuba–has created possibilities for cooperation. Grade C. King would have rated Obama’s overtures to Iran, Russia and Cuba as an improvement over the Bush’s Administration. Yet, he would have seen Obama’s demanding of improvement of human rights as hypocritical. He would have also wanted the U.S. to be more self-critical of its hostility toward Iran and Cuba.


One Response to “First 100 days of Barack Obama’s Presidency: What Would Martin Luther King Say?”

  1. How I Was Able to Lose Thirty Póunds in Only a Month Says:

    Hi, cool post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for blogging. I’ll certainly be coming back to your blog. Keep up the good posts

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