HILO, Hawaii – With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump hours away, Hawaii Democrats are turning to the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for hope and inspiration.
The White House and all of Congress will soon be under Republican control. The state Democratic Party chair reflected on that during a Monday celebration held in Hilo to honor the late civil rights leader.
Tim Vandeveer was one of the days’ speakers at the Mo’oheau bandstand event. It wasn’t an official Democratic Party event, but many Democrats were in attendance.
“I don’t really need an excuse both to come here to the Big Island, or to pay tribute to Dr. King,” Vandeveer said after the event. “He’s a hero and was a great man and his words seem more relevant now than they have been in quite some time.”
“Many of us have been thinking of him and his words and his work. In particular, I’ve been thinking what he would think, how he would feel, about this most recent election.”
During his speech to the assembled at the celebration in Hilo, Vandeveer focused on two famous King quotes in particular. He sees them as calls to action, now, given the current political circumstances.
Vandeveer said the first quote he chose, “we may have all come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now”, was Dr. King “recognizing that there’s a tremendous amount of economic injustice. Until we solve that, things like racial injustice, and social injustice, and environmental injustice are going to be much harder to solve.”
“That seems particularly magnified right now, but unless we do realize that we live in a system with drastic income disparity and an incoming administration – for example, where the 17 people that have been nominated to cabinet positions own a combined wealth that is greater than the bottom half of this entire country – we have to recognize and we have to wake up and realize that something is wrong.”
Vandeveer also said “the response to radical right-wing ideology and privatization and corporatism is not watered down Reaganomics – as unfortunately it’s been for far too long in our party. The response to that is the New Deal in the Great Society and actually solving income inequality and addressing the needs of the working poor.”
“So, the second quote I took is more of a symbol of hope. Again, it’s an observation. But it’s also a call to action. And it’s Dr. King’s quote that goes like this: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ And that was not, as I said in my words, a mere musing on the part of Dr. King at the end of a single struggle. That was a fighter who was reflecting on his experience, and on history in general, and realizing that we help it bend toward justice.”
“So it’s an active participation. It’s not just an observation. And I think that’s important to do, because it is going to be a long 4 years. But I think it will go fairly quickly, if we’re involved and we are activated and we are turned on and organized. Every time they say ‘corporatized and privatize’ we should publicize and organize. And that’s what we’ve got to remember right now, as Democrats.”
“We’ve gotta find our soul and we got to get together,” Vandeveer said.