“When we as Republicans can publicly, consistently, and confidently embrace and convince the diversity of Americans just as we convincingly embrace the contrasting colors of the American flag, we will have succeeded in becoming better leaders, historic visionaries, and embraced patriots throughout America.” ~Lenny McAllister
(August 28, 2013) – From the political left (unintentionally or otherwise), we were told about Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream on Saturday. On Monday, the political right observed the remembrance of this great event from 1963. Now, on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 – 50 years after rounds of speakers joined Dr. King on that stage in Washington, DC in the effort for change – President Obama and others will take their turn to recall the bravery of women and men that were committed to making America better in spite of itself during one of our more troubling eras.
Just as the nation stood on the brink some 50 years ago – looking at the obvious need for change and dealing with the ongoing social civil war over Jim Crow – we as a people stand today, looking into the social mirror at our reflection. Today, we ask ourselves as we look at the picture that we see: what must we do in order to ensure that the “pursuit of happiness” that is noted in the Declaration of Independence and the security of “…the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” noted in the Constitution are fulfilled despite the challenges we face today? What must we do in order to secure the civil rights protected in the Amendments, earned through the blood and sweat equity of our forefathers, and required to maximize the talents and promise found throughout America?
All of us must chase, capture, and champion the new civil rights of the 21st century.
Whether it is as Republicans or as non-political activists, we must be willing to become the brand-building, mold-breaking leaders that we emulate from days long since past. Social success in 21st century America must include embracing the United States Constitution from a “conservative” perspective – namely, that the rights of all citizens are protected without progressive interpretations that expand the role of government, the tint of justice, or the invasive arm of the law. This must be applied to laws impacting the ballot box as well as initiatives that roll back the intent of the Second Amendment.
Initiatives such as voter validation must reflect the essence of the March on Washington 50 years ago, moving the tone and intent of such laws past the stigma and dysfunction of voter suppression to one where the right to vote is protected and promoted for all American citizens. From a conservative standpoint politically, we must relish the opportunity to strengthen the access to the ballot box for all Americans, be it through a modified version of the Voting Rights Act or through initiatives that show Americans across our cities and those pockets of non-traditional voters that voting is an American civil right. With all of the talk that “Martin Luther King was a Republican” – along with other prominent African-Americans including Frederick Douglass and Jackie Robinson – there must be legislative, grassroots, and partisan efforts that we enact that illustrate the commitment to the Republican legacy of civil rights and the willingness to partner with new voters currently. The new civil rights movement for us Republicans must include pursuing new voters, apologizing to them for abandoning them as automatic voters for Democrats for decades, and engaging them as valuable co-authors of a more prosperous nation.
Our pursuit of the new civil rights must articulate school choice not as a condemnation of teachers’ unions and public schools, but as a solution that recalibrates the classroom balance within public, private, and charter schools that benefits the teacher-student ratios throughout our communities. We must show that education is one of those new civil rights in America – one that has a recurring theme over the ages: education is the pathway to knowledge, and knowledge is power. In order to unleash the power that has been systematically contained in urban America through our flaws and oversights, we must use all available avenues to implement strategies that optimize our education dollars and children’s potential concurrently and immediately. Our segue to more school choice opportunities must not be promoted by fellow conservatives as a verdict against public education. Instead, we must articulate the need to pursue and win this new civil rights argument as a mission to protect the promise of the American Dream for all American children, offering this new direction as a national initiative that views improved academic results by our youth as a national security issue and an imperative for true justice to ring true.
The new civil rights pursuit cannot merely reflect upon the successes of the past. Our efforts must learn from the past – of the bravery, the vision, the discipline, and the sacrifices incurred by many. Any misdirection of focus away from what is necessary today only leads to a misapplication of our good intentions.
To win the new civil rights “dream”, we must apply conservative principles in ways that make sense for more Americans. That application will break the mold and definitions of what “conservative” and “Republican” have meant over the recent years – both from a branding standpoint as well as from a political perspective. This will not mean that we will need to move away from our political principles, but to be the leaders that America deserves from us, this trend-setting pivot will require us to show a pathway of prosperity from socioeconomic and educational poverty to the obtainment of the American Dream.
Freedom as discussed by conservatives must include the freedom to embrace the disadvantaged American, discard the labels of judgment and scorn, and develop strategies to partner with non-traditional allies to trumpet our principles in the pursuit of common goals. Dr. King’s “dream” must include the ability to partner with the diversity of America where they are right now instead of merely attempting to pull them over to our side with an immediate and uncomfortable nudge. Overcoming the racism that Dr. King and others fought against in the 1960s must include a conservative acknowledgment of where we are today as Americans concerning race relations, understanding both the misunderstandings and intentional missteps that inhibit our leadership from taking full advantage of the talent, resources, and opportunities within the overlooked pockets of America that only make the news when a shooting is reported or a failure is featured. Healing our fractured nation must include a conservative balm that steps the nation through tackling tough problems with a loving, thoughtful, and encompassing approach to leadership, not merely the tough-love rhetoric that blames victims of bad policy, failures in leadership, and a stagnant economy with catchy slogans and oblivious statements.
True conservative leadership that reflects the legacy of 50 years ago in Washington embraces the notion that all corners of America fit into the confines of the Constitution – as voters, as citizens, as potentially productive members of American society – and pursues that end with a vigor that breaks down the stereotypes of the current GOP, repairs the breakdown of communication with key constituents, and forever abolishes the one-party system that many Americans have been forced to live under for the past 50 years.
We, too, have a dream in 2013. That dream must include celebrating suffrage for all citizens while winning over new voters from all areas in America. That dream must include expanding educational efficiency and success for more Americans to secure our geopolitical and economic standing in the world, much less sure-up our neighborhoods as safer and better communities. That dream must apply conservative principles in the spirit of patriotism and partnership with those that we have dismissed in the past with a wanton broad stroke, not an insightful viewpoint focused on leading in a historic and necessary manner. That dream must expand our vision in order to expand our influence. That dream must expand our willingness to lead the United States of America, not just the politically red states and areas in America. That dream is required of us today in an urgent way if we are to protect the American Dream for those that have it, evangelize the Dream to those that have never heard of it, and reclaim those that have given up on it. That dream of inclusive, smart, and visionary leadership can no longer be a political fantasy. The time is now to stand on the shoulders of a Dreamer and secure the American Dream – for all.
Political commentator and community advocate Lenny McAllister is the “Working Man’s Conservative” currently working to make his hometown of Chicago and our proud nation better by working together as #OneBigTeam. Featured as one of the “40 Under 40 to Watch in 2012” by the historic newspaper The Chicago Defender, he has been featured in several national and international publications and media outlets, including Essence, Chicago Crusader, and Charlotte Magazine. “The McAllister Minute,” a regular feature of the American Urban Radio Network, runs on more than 300 stations nationwide.
For more information, go tohttp://www.LennyMcAllister.com
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