His leadership led to our opportunities.
Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. truly spoke for all black people, because we were all unified behind one purpose. That was equal justice and liberty for all, and no one did more to bring it about than Dr. King.
Today, there is no one leader who speaks for all black people, and that includes Barack Obama. He is the president of the United States, but he does not speak for all black people. This is as it should be, because one aspect of the freedom for which Dr. King fought is that no single leader should be able to tell all black people how to think or how to live. And anyone who claims to speak for all black people is a fraud.
Leadership is important, of course, and I want young black people to look to accomplished, responsible, informed black Americans for an example and for insight on how they might build happy and successful futures for themselves. A problem for young blacks, however, is that the most responsible and informed voices are not necessarily the ones you often see on television. They are not the ones who show up when there is racial strife and controversy, but rather the ones who are working hard every day to make the most of the opportunities Dr. King helped to give us.
I am happy to see the commemorations of the 1963 March on Washington, but I am a little disappointed that most of the speakers there will be politicians and activists, and that the tone coming from this event is as though it were still 1963, and that Dr. King's sacrifices have not borne any fruit. It made me angry when I heard Jesse Jackson the other day compare the Tea Party to the defenders of Jim Crow, because a) I have spoken at many Tea Party rallies and no one has ever treated me as anything other than an American; and b) Jesse Jackson should be better than the cheap tactic of marginalizing every political opponent with the false smear of racism. If he had any confidence in his beliefs, he would not do that.
So let me introduce you to some of my friends, informed black Americans who are Dr. King's legacy and who can serve as excellent examples of leadership for young blacks who also want to become the fruit of what Dr. King worked so hard to achieve. They are:
Harry Alford – President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce
Ken Blackwell – Former Attorney General of Ohio and former mayor of Cincinnati. He sits on several boards and is a Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council.
Dr. Ben Carson – Retired pediatric neurosurgeon from John Hopkins and political commentator. Dr. Carson is a quiet and brilliant man, who is unafraid to tell it like it is!
Niger Innis – President of CORE (Council on Racial Equality) and Chief Strategist for the Tea Party Patriots
Dr. Alveda King – Niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and political activist. Her main focus is working with Priests for Life in protecting the life of the unborn.
Star Parker – Founder of CURE (Center for Urban Renewal and Education) and syndicated columnist. She has been active in Republican politics and conservative issues since 1995.
Colonel Allen West – Former congressman from Florida, retired Army and political activist for conservative issues.
Armstrong Williams - American Black Conservative political commentator and host of national syndicated TV program “The Right Side.”
Walter Williams – Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author. Known for his libertarian/conservative views.
State Senator Elbert Gillory, R-LA – Recently switched parties from Democrat to Republican. Outspoken and up and coming in the Republican Party.
Frances Rice – Chairman of the National Black Republican Association. Mrs. Rice is also a retired U.S. Army Colonel and a terrific spokesperson for conservative issues.
Senator Tim Scott, R-SC: First black elected Senator in U.S. history! Senator Scott works tirelessly for the causes of conservatism.
Mia Love – Current mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. She is considering another run for Congress to unseat Rep. Jim Matheson (R) who has held his seat for over ten years. Mia is a staunch Republican and someone to watch in the future of the Republican party.
J.C. Watts - Former congressman from Oklahoma.
They all believe in the Constitution of the United States of America. They all believe in our free market system. They believe in freedom, not free stuff. They believe in individual responsibility.
That’s what they all have in common, and they happen to all be black voices. They are the ones that more of us need to listen to. In 1964, the civil liberties no-fly zone was lifted, thanks to the sacrifices, speeches and marches of people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, equal opportunity is pursued in the trenches, in your community, in your place of employment. The promised land of equal opportunity did not promise equal results. That’s where the divisive people get it wrong.
I do a lot of speaking all over the country. I’m going to be speaking at Yale next week. I often get asked when I’m out on the trail, “Mr. Cain, you graduated from college in the late ‘60s on the heels of 1964, and you have succeeded at climbing the corporate ladder. How did you deal with discrimination and being black as you pursued those achievements?"
I’ve gotten that question more than once. My answer has always been, first of all, I didn’t have to deal with my blackness. The people who didn’t like the fact that I was black, they had to deal with my blackness. I didn’t go to work every day flaunting my blackness. I went into work focusing on what I needed to do to achieve results.
Was there discrimination as I climbed the corporate ladder? Yes, but I didn’t focus on it. I allowed resentment to be someone else’s problem.
I was too busy trying to be happy in the pursuit of my own American dream for myself and my family, not worrying about barriers in the mind of others that hold people back.
So let’s use the commemoration of the achievements of the last 50 years to be a springboard for us, positively united, going forward in the next 50 years.