On Election Night in 2008, Barack Obama made history as the first black man to be elected President of the United States.
“Because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” Obama said in his victory speech.
Among those in the crowd was civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who was brought to tears by Obama’s victory.
“It was the joy of the moment and the journey, the moment we won the big one,” Jackson said. “I mean this was beyond our imagination, what we thought was possible.”
Jackson was also in the crowd back in 1963 for the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“And so the dream was to lift our spirits, and that was very successful,” he said. “Moving us toward getting freedom. Removing the badge of shame.”
Many black leaders see a direct connection between King and President Obama, including former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.
“He is an heir of Dr. King’s, not by birth or family lineage or anything,” Bond said about Obama. “But he is enjoying the benefits that Dr. King and the movement that King led created for him.”
Others see a broader foundation, including Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker.
“Barack Obama doesn’t stand on the shoulders of Martin Luther King,” Booker said. “He stands on the shoulders of thousands and thousands of Americans. But for their sacrifice and struggles, he wouldn’t be there.”
Obama paid tribute to King and his legacy in the commencement speech this year at King’s alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“And laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as President of these United States of America,” Obama said.
Jackson said King would take pride in Mr. Obama’s rise to power.
“With the capacity to mold and pull a nation together in ways he perhaps could not have because of the nation’s reaction to him,” he said. “And then to have become the president twice, he would have been proud of that.”