'Together we can' is Obama's message in the shadow of MLK

By staff writers
January 20, 2009

Incoming US President Barack Obama's message to the world will be "together we can", says the law professor who taught him at Harvard as the formal inauguration gets underway in Washington DC.

Today's events are also being deeply linked to Martin Luther King Sunday two days ago.

Professor Charles Ogletree told the BBC this afternoon that Obama's short but decisive political career has been fuelled to a significant degree by his oratorial skills, and that his main concern is to engage all Americans and the watching world in a project of change.

The senior law professor, who knows the 44th US president personally, says that his much anticipated speech today will move the agenda from an aspirational 'Yes we can!' to a motivational 'Together we can!'

Two themes will be shared responsibility in a world threatened by war, environmental destruction and poverty at home and abroad, and the significance of his dual upbringing in Africa and the West.

This morning, the Obama family took time to reflect and prepare for the inauguration events at church.

The incoming president has stated firmly his commitment to a plural public sphere and separation of church and state, but also his personal Christian motivation which has roots nourished both by progressive thought and personal spirituality.

Martin Luther King Jr's words, often quoted by Barack Obama, again filled the pews and pulpits at black churches across the country on the eve of the federal observance of what would have been his 80th birthday - this time with added anticipation coming from Obama's impending inauguration as the nation's first black president.

Many black preachers touted the moment — the 23rd federal observance of King's birthday falls on the eve of the inauguration — as a mark of America's progress toward a racially just society, reports AP.

Black worshippers sang "We Shall Overcome" and prayed to protect Obama's family and to help the country follow Obama's leadership.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached from 1960 until his death in 1968, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock was met with applause as he praised Obama's victory and imminent swearing-in.

"We ought to all celebrate this morning ... that we've moved closer to who we say we are," Warnock declared

In Chicago, the Salem Baptist Church rocked as hundreds of members clapped, danced and sang.

"Obama talked about hope — this solidified it," the Archbishop LeRoy Bailey Jr said at the service, in which members of the suburban Hartford congregation watched tapes of Martin Luther King giving speeches that included his 1963 address at the Lincoln Memorial.

"On Tuesday, 20 January, this nation will do the almost unthinkable," said guest speaker the Rev Harold A. Carter of New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. "A black man will lay his hand on the Bible, one of the justices will lead him in swearing that he will uphold the Constitution. ... Four hundred years ago, this was not supposed to be. We were brought here as slaves, as chattel."

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