Fifty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, one thing is certain: Racial segregation has receded; racial suspicions have not.
A half-century after the first March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I was moved emotionally by the history-making sight of this nation’s first African-American first family waving to a cheering crowd under the serene gaze of my favorite president, Abraham Lincoln.
Then, a second thought hit me: Too bad there’s only one Republican on that stage.
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly also noticed. “Today’s event excluded black Republicans and conservatives,” he barked. “All the speakers were Democrats. That was a glaring error and does not indicate a desire for inclusion.”
I agree with O’Reilly about the optics, if not much else. Both the organizers and leading Republicans, according to various reports, say the omission resulted from an unfortunate combination of bad timing and miscommunications, not from any intent by either side to snub the other.
Event organizers said they invited top Republicans, all of whom declined to attend. That tends to be confirmed by GOP leaders reached by Roll Call, CQ, the Washington Post and other media. Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are both recovering from medical conditions. Leading Republicans in both houses of Congress cited scheduling conflicts. Most are back home with full schedules of public events.
That’s not hard to believe in a town that is famous for things falling through cracks. Top congressional Democrats didn’t make it, either.
Even so, the absence of the Party of Lincoln from the Lincoln Memorial on this day was an embarrassment to both sides. After all, how can we Americans claim to pursue peace in the rest of the world if we can’t get along in Washington?