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Clarence B. Jones

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'Hope' Ain't Dead Yet

Posted: 12/10/11 04:32 PM ET

I recently completed teaching for the second year, a course for graduate students in Stanford's School of Continuing Education. The class, an elective, is included in the curriculum of those seeking a Master of Liberal Arts Degree. Captioned "From Slavery To Obama", last semester had the addendum of "The Presidential Election of 2012".

Out of respect for the privacy of my students I will only indicate that students who enrolled in the class were all white, except for one African-American male, and an Asian woman. The age was from 27 to 55+ and, except for two men, the balance of the class consisted of women.

The syllabus and extensive required reading list included, but was not limited to works such as The Peculiar Institution-Slavery in The Ante-Bellum South, Souls of Black Folk, The Fire Next Time, The Invisible Man, Third Word America, Between Barack and a Hard Place - Racism and White Denial, Lies My Teacher Told Me, Children of Fire - A History of African-Americans, From Slavery to Freedom, Black Reconstruction, My Twenty Years in Congress-1860-1880, Dr. King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail", President Lyndon Johnson's June 1965 commencement speech at Howard University, The Moynihan Report, candidate Obama's speech, "A More Perfect Union" in Philadelphia, Penn. March 18, 2008, Eldridge Cleaver's Soul On Ice, Malcolm X's A Life of Reinvention, etc.

Reading (and unavoidably grading) their term papers restored, temporarily, my faith and hope for our country. It was additionally "restored" when I listened to and read the text of Obama's speech on income inequality on December 6, 2011, at a high school in Osawatomie, Kansas.

The intellectual or ideological "book ends" of President Obama's re-election campaign may be fundamentally defined by his speech on "Race in America" in Philadelphia and his recent speech on income inequality. In those famous words of Sir Henry Higgins in the musical "My Fair Lady", he's got it! By God, I think, he's "got it"!

In Philadelphia, March 18th, 2008, among other things candidate Obama said,

"This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign -- to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together -- unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction -- towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren."

When all the ridiculous inane, posturing, and "silliness", if not sheer stupidity and intellectual dishonesty is over among the candidates for the Republican Party's nomination for president in 2012, race relations and the economy, including joblessness and housing foreclosures, will be the principal domestic issues in the 2012 presidential election. Yes, of course, foreign policy issues related to Iran, Israel and the Palestinians will undoubtedly be prominent issues during the campaign. But, the outcome of the election will depend fundamentally determined by domestic issues.

Hanging like the sword of Damocles over the presidential campaign will be the issues raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Time magazine recently characterized "Occupy Wall Street" as the major domestic news story of 2011. The editors of Time wrote:

"On Sept. 17, a couple hundred protesters demonstrating against the excesses of corporate execs and the pervasive influence of high finance in U.S. politics set up camp in Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and refused to leave. It was an unlikely occupation, one without leaders, agendas or even a clear sense of goals, but it soon was echoed in myriad cities across the U.S. and the world. To some, Occupy Wall Street is the left-wing iteration of the Tea Party, directing their rage not at big government but at the big banks that gutted the world economy and took billions in bailouts from the U.S. government while awarding themselves hefty bonuses.

"But many in the movement see their cause as part of a more global zeitgeist, in keeping with the anti-austerity demonstrations in Europe and the leaderless uprisings of the Arab Spring. The Occupy movement has remained leaderless, amorphous and spontaneous -- demonstrators carry signs advocating everything from financial reform to healthcare reform to a ban on fracking -- it's still unclear what sort of real lasting political effect the movement can have. But the sheer persistence of the occupations, galvanized by incidents of heavy-handed policing in New York and California that shocked the nation, have given the protesters' appeals for economic justice a weight that may play a real role in the upcoming presidential election."

The discussion and term papers of my students in "From Slavery To Obama and The 2012 Presidential Election" seem to concur. "Hope" ain't dead yet.