While the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s stated dream of a half century ago was certainly bold, the time to dream has passed, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders believes.
“We’re just as proud of the Emancipation Proclamation today as we were when it was delivered 150 years ago,” Elders said at Monday night’s Presidential Inaugural Gala at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. “We’re just as proud today as we were when we first heard Dr. King’s speech 50 years ago, but we have to wake up from that dream. Hopefully, Mr. Barack Obama has turned that dream into an action plan.”
The 79-year-old Elders, who served as surgeon general from 1993-94 under former President Bill Clinton, was saluted at the event, held to honor Obama in conjunction with day-long inauguration activities in Washington, D.C. Elders, an Arkansas native, was the first black woman to serve in the post and only the fifth black to hold a presidential cabinet berth. Obama, now in his second term, is America’s first black president.
“Dr. King dreamed about equality,” said Elders. “President Obama’s talking about it.”
Referencing the president’s inauguration speech made earlier, Elders pointed out that he had said the plan he was relating wasn’t his but rather the nation’s. “We know that it won’t be easy and we know he knows it, too,” she said. “Everyone has to help. We each have a part in that plan.”
Elders praised the president for his accomplishments thus far and said more good is to yet to come from his leadership. “We’re all very proud of what he’s done and the vision he has for America,” she said.
Elders is especially keen on Obama’s dedication to “educating people.”
“You can’t have a healthy country without educated people,” she said, briefly addressing the “promise” of Obama’s controversial health care plan. “You can’t keep ignorant people healthy. Stupidity lasts forever, and we have to cure it.”
She summarized her remarks by commending Obama for his compassion and steadfastness in wanting to ensure educational opportunities, while challenging others to take advantage of such offerings.
“Not knowing is bad,” she said. “Not wanting to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is absolutely unforgivable.”