Date: Monday, July 12, 2010
By: Ben Jealous, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com
Dr. King reminded us, we all need “a testament of hope.” This is particularly true in these times of economic distress that seem to entice so many to run downhill towards hate.
Over the last few years, there has been much talk about the audacity of hope and the urgency of now, and while they have gathered wide coinage, neither should be rendered a clichÉ.
For many individuals and families across our country, that testament of hope is nothing greater than a job - a job that pays enough for you to support your family, a job at which you are treated with dignity and basic respect.
If the quest for more jobs, good jobs and fair jobs is to be realized, then it must be placed at the top of our national agenda. We simply can no longer afford for putting America back to work to be a secondary priority, as it seems to be for so many in the Congress, especially in the Senate.
The message coming out of the U.S. Capitol in recent weeks has been: Our nation can’t afford 23 billion dollars to keep hundreds of thousands of teachers in the classroom; we can’t afford to extend unemployment insurance for millions of laid off workers and their families, but we can afford 32 billion dollars for war.
No neighborhood is saved from the foreclosure crisis; no state education budget improved without more and more jobs being created every month.
If we must spend more to create jobs to get our economy going again, so be it.
Spending to create jobs got us out of the Great Depression, and it will get us out of the Great Recession. With the creation of more jobs, we can provide ballast to sustain middle-class families so they are in a position to send their children to college to get the skills they need to fill the employment needs of our increasingly high-tech society.
Pulling our nation back together means we must be prepared to go further and tackle our toughest problems at home with the fierce urgency of now.
As I write this, I am in Kansas City, Missouri for the NAACP's national convention. While there is much good to be said about the "Show Me" state, there is also a lot here that reminds us about the urgent need for Americans to keep pushing for change and holding their leaders accountable.
There is the crisis in the Kansas City school system. Half the schools were recently shut down, and more layoffs are imminent - a situation the local NAACP is working hard to improve.
This state joins many others in allowing payday lenders to charge consumers more than 1900 percent interest — a rate so high, it is literally the financial equivalent of napalm. The dominance of these financial vultures over the poor is burning proof that there is a long way to go to ensure both lenders and the government are truly on the side of regular people.
Pushing for progress is an uphill fight. But let us fear nothing more than we fear our own temptation to become discouraged on the rocky road to make manifest our common prayers for a better future.
We are more than up to the task of following through and achieving all of the change we voted for. We are as strong as the majority of the country. We are as audacious as the people who broke the nation’s 233-year old color barrier at the White House. We are as triumphant as the band of intrepid Americans who beat back the army of lobbyists unleashed by this country’s greediest health care company CEOs in order to secure affordable quality health care for more than 30 million more of our neighbors.
All we have to do to get our nation’s economy truly working for all of us is to get off the couch, unite behind a common agenda for a better future and fight like we know regular people who drink coffee are way more powerful than any group of costumed elites who claim to like tea.
After all, we are the change we have been voting for. Change is what happens every day, not just on Election Day. And, right now, our nation’s children — from the Gulf Coast to the Iron City — deserve for all of us to fight for a better tomorrow like their very lives depend on it.
We hope that you will join us and 100 other organizations in marching in Washington D.C. for jobs and justice under the banner of "One Nation Working Together on 10-2-10."
Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.