LIVING FOR CHANGE
A Letter to President Obama
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, May 5, 2009
Distinguished historian Robin D. G. Kelley asked his Duke University students to write a critical letter to President Obama based on the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Angela Davis and black feminists, or James and Grace Boggs, for their final essay.
Here is the letter, edited for space, that one student wrote on our behalf:
Mr. President, we are at a turning point in history. Your election has created a feeling reminiscent of the 50s and 60s when Dr. King helped radiate a moral fervor throughout this country. The message that you and those revolutionary times have in common is the desire for Change. Unfortunately, some of your current measures don’t represent true Change. They recreate the sense of dependency on the government and people of power. We must begin to think and project to others the idea that “we can change the way it is” (Boggs 231). A revolution, not of our government but of our mentality, can help achieve your idea of Change for the United States.
As a community organizer, you challenged people to take responsibility for their actions. The problem is that people feel they don’t have a say in this complex, powerful system that we call America. They feel like victims, especially minorities and oppressed people, and start to depend on the government.
In order to push for a true Change, we must start with ourselves as the driving force. It is human beings who created this system. Without the participation of the people, the system could not continue. Therefore, measures should be concentrated at the grassroots level, not at the level of politicians and CEOs.
You state that what is preventing a better America is “the absence of a national commitment to take the tough steps necessary to make America more competitive.” (Obama 149). Although I agree Work is needed, I do not agree that it should be for competing against other nations in the global market. I believe Work gives human beings the chance to be human, to express their capabilities and creativity and not only help the community but also themselves. Work is essential to the “the expression, the creation of one’s humanity” (Boggs 242), and with the new technological revolution, Work is important for devising new methods to the changing times.
Welfare is destructive because it takes capabilities from human beings, making them feel like victims to the system. Work is a necessity. Allowing outsourcing and automation to eliminate jobs is devastating to the economic and social aspects of communities. Unions perpetuate the destructive idea of let’s get ours ideal in capitalistic American society, The long-term change that will help people in need of Work is to build up local businesses at the grassroots level so that people have a closer connection to the benefits of their labor. It is the Work of the people that will save America’s humanity and create a society that thrives on service and communalism.
I commend your reaching out to our enemies to create better relations. Although I do not agree with the spread of American capitalistic policies to other nations, I do agree that the United States must perfect our policies at home and lead by example. You state that the “unwillingness to make hard choices and live up to our own ideals” undermines America’s credibility with the world and its own people. Thus, the success of our foreign policy lies in the hands of the most precious resource—the people (Obama 321). The people have a responsibility to engage in the “political struggles necessary to arrive at important social decisions” (Boggs 261).
In order to acquire the revolution that will enlarge America’s sense of humanity away from materialism and racism, you must persuade the American people that they are their own leaders, The evolution of our people cannot be achieved through mere “reform measures.” The solution entails a social revolution which will reverse the whole course of dehumanization, giving priority instead to the development of the American people as a politically conscious, socially responsible, independently creative, and unashamedly self-critical people” (Boggs 187).
Therefore, Mr. President, please follow your belief in the power of the people. Bring the attention back from Wall St. to Main St.; ensure confidence among each and every person in the United States, and lead us into the future with a new society, a beloved community that will represent another step in the evolution of humankind.