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Restoring the American Dream

September 3, 2008 Updated: August 24, 2020

Washington DC—Martin Luther King Jr. once described Americans and our American way of life this way: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

That statement is as profound—and instructive—today as it was a half century ago when Dr. King wrote those words from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.

Labor Day traditionally kicks off the final sprint to Election Day. From now until November 4, Americans will engage in a national debate about who to entrust with the awesome responsibility of leading our nation. It is up to every single American to determine the tone and character of that debate. We have a choice. We can conduct this debate on the merits of each candidate, knowing that we are, all of us, tied in a single garment, endeavoring in the serious work of setting the future course for our children and grandchildren. Or we can use this national debate as a platform to breed division, conflict, and racial fears as some extremists are already doing in newspapers and over the airwaves.

We cannot solve the challenges before us unless we truly recognize that we must solve them together. Americans may come from different backgrounds and outlooks—but we share the same hope of achieving the American dream. All of us want to take part, and do our part, in a society that provides a better life for every American.

I believe Senator Barack Obama is the best candidate—the American dream candidate—not only for working people, but for all Americans. He believes in the promise of the American dream because he has lived it. He believes that, in America, if you work hard you ought to share in the success of your labor. In America, you ought to be able to earn wages and benefits that can raise a family.

From ending the war in Iraq to shoring up the economy, from ensuring health care for every American to solving our energy crisis, Barack Obama has thoughtful, well-formulated proposals designed to put America back on track—and make the American dream a real possibility again for working families. That’s why it is so gravely distressing to see the nefarious efforts of those who would turn back the clock in America by fueling racial fears and inciting racial conflicts around Senator Obama’s candidacy.

Americans need serious debate about how best to meet the challenges of our ailing economy. We need real, workable proposals on how to fix our health care system and make college more affordable for our kids. It’s critically important for the U.S. to regain its place as a leader on the world stage. Yet there are those who persist in distracting us with divisive and morally repugnant racial fear mongering.

In this election, working people have an incredible opportunity to turn our country around. We can reject the politics of division and conflict. We can say: “Not this time, not this election.”  Union members know better than most, as Martin Luther King says, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” We know that an injury to one is an injury to all. And grave injury is caused by those who would demean this election with racial rhetoric.

Let’s focus the debate on the prospects for a better tomorrow in which all workers will have their rights protected and their hard work respected; a tomorrow with affordable health care for all Americans, economic prosperity and national security. If we conduct a responsible national debate, we can elect a new president who will bring about positive economic change—a president who will not put corporate interests above those of working people. We have a clear choice on the November presidential ballot. Barack Obama offers change and hope—he brings a commitment to the cause of working people. With his leadership, we can change America, and restore the American dream.