From one end of the national mall to the other – it just takes ten minutes to drive – if you are lucky with the lights. From the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol steps the view is almost unobstructed. You can see from end to end.
But this journey has taken a generation – over 40 years. ‘Arbaim shanah akut bdor…’ says Psalm 70. For 40 years we wrangled in the wilderness.
How often we did provoke God – and how often did we scorn one another. How often did we lose hope and because of that, we lost our way.
Martin Luther King said back then about hope:
"...BUT WE ALWAYS KNEW THAT HOPE IS NOT BLIND OPTIMISM. IT'S NOT IGNORING THE ENORMITY OF THE TASK AHEAD OR THE ROADBLOCKS THAT STAND IN OUR PATH. IT'S NOT SITTING ON THE SIDELINES OR SHIRKING FROM A FIGHT. HOPE IS THE THING INSIDE US THAT INSISTS, DESPITE ALL THE EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, THAT SOMETHING BETTER AWAITS US IF WE HAVE THE COURAGE TO REACH FOR IT, AND TO WORK FOR IT, AND TO FIGHT FOR IT."
And fight for it we did.
And now, we HAVE seen God’s goodness, in the land of the living!
Have HOPE in the Lord. Be strong, take courage – and hope in the Lord.
Hope has been a primary theme of our president elect. In 2004 at the Democratic convention, he defined it in a manner similar to Dr. King:
“I’m not talking about blind optimism here, “ he said, “the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores…. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him too.”
Hope, in short, is something born of our shared stories – stories that have been for the most part, stories of degradation.
Of slavery and exile.
Of homelessness and hopelessness.
Of the Amistad and the Warsaw Ghetto.
Of the mighty rivers of Babylon and the Mississippi.
Born of hate and innocent blood – that is where our hope comes from.
It comes from the depths.
How could we continue to hope during those dark, dark days?
We have seen first-hand that hope can happen amidst the floodwaters and the ashes, the shattered promises and broken levees; because it comes from a simple act of turning.
The distance from the Lincoln memorial to the Capitol steps is very short. But in order to get from one to the other – you have to turn around. For Jews, the art of repentance is as simple as that act of reorientation, of turning around, of facing the other way – of facing our neighbor.
The dream in our day is that close to fulfillment - A simple matter of turning around.
For the first time, there truly will be no child left behind!
It will be a moment of humility and pride for all of us, for every child – and every adult.
A moment of hope enduring and a promise fulfilled.
Our new hope is born of freedom, as symbolized by the tall structure marking the halfway point between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol – the monument to the man who led our ragtag troops into that epic battle for freedom.
We can say it as of noon tomorrow – we’ve gone half way on our journey – we are now free!
But the dream has not yet been completely fulfilled.
There is still injustice in our land.
There is still poverty and segregation, fear and depravation.
There is still bigotry in this land.
And so, as we turn our attention from today to tomorrow, from the Lincoln memorial where Dr. King spoke, to the steps of the capitol where Barack Hussein Obama’s beautiful name will be called to the service our country as its President, we must, each of us, recommit ourselves to the dream and to service.
Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “To be is to stand for.”
We all must stand up to fear and never fear to take a stand!
We all must join hands to defy despair.
We’ve come so far – yet we’ve so far to go.
But there is a buoyancy to our steps, a purposefulness to our gait, and determination in our eyes.
We HAVE overcome!
We HAVE overcome!
We HAVE overcome!
And we shall overcome – we shall overcome - even more – some day…beginning at noon... tomorrow.