Cover Story

Kaleidoscope of opportunity

Beyond race, toward a new America: This nation has come to terms with its past, and become a truly multiracial, multiethnic melting pot, brimming with optimism, wealth, and opportunity

Issue: "A new division, a new dream," Aug. 25, 2001

It is Aug. 28, 2063; our 53rd president is the third Hispanic and the second African-American to rise to the nation's highest office. She is also the third female. She plans to run for reelection. Today she is speaking at the Lincoln Memorial to a great crowd gathering to commemorate the rise of a nearly colorblind society on the 100th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Her words will instantly reach out across the planet to people who increasingly see each other as equals, see problems as occasions to create solutions, and see differences as opportunities to learn. Her rise to the presidency was seen as normal in a country that has long ago grown used to the rise to national prominence of the Colin Powells and Condoleezza Rices. Today she is speaking about Dr. King's spirit of nonviolence and his dedication to a more positive spiritual vision of humanity that has now permeated large parts of our society. She reminds her audience that here, in the land of the free, men, women, and children of African descent were once unwillingly brought to this country and sold into the brutal condition of slavery. They were regarded as property. She recounts the period of the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and how the end of the war brought the promise of freedom but did not bring justice. Nearly 100 years passed before Dr. King declared, on the same steps before the monument of the Great Emancipator, that black men and women were "still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination." They were not yet free. The president, recalling her own life and her own dream, recounts how she and a younger generation 30 years ago had rediscovered King's speeches and his movement with the vividness of a new revelation. The young people of her generation, tired of a rushed, intense, materialistic society, had found in his history of idealistic sacrifice, bold vision, and fearless articulation a model for their own lives. She tells the story of her first trip to Washington as a young girl. She made the trip with her grandmother, who brought her to the National Museum of Black History and Culture, founded in 2005. Its creation launched a national dialogue that helped to bring the nation to terms with its past and gave the African-American community its rightful place of honor in American history. As Americans were educated about the harsh realities of their own past, the very old and deep wounds started to heal. Americans came together to create a positive future of understanding and respect. The result was an explosion of volunteers, a mass enlistment in faith-based charities, and a "Students for Nonviolent Change" campaign that used the Internet and the collapsing cost of travel to bring waves of new political and social idealism to virtually every corner of the planet. The sense of achievement this generation experienced by helping the poor, the ill, and the oppressed around the planet grew in part out of an extraordinary integration of American life. The interracial dating and interracial marriages that had already become dramatically more common by the end of the 20th century had continued to create the sense of a single American nation. The continuing influx of Hispanic and Asian migrants had further reshaped the society into a nation in which the bipolar racial tensions of the black/white era were replaced by a kaleidoscope of opportunities. Different ethnic groups with an extraordinary range of languages and backgrounds found themselves blending together into a truly American system in which people worked, lived, dated, and married based on individual preference rather than on any sense of racial identity. As the children of multiethnic marriages themselves intermarried, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren became increasingly American and decreasingly able to think of quotas, set asides, or group identity. The result was a major shift toward the kind of society Dr. King had described when he foresaw a world in which the content of a person's character would matter more than the color of his skin. Idealistic endeavors led to successes that increased the willingness to commit time and energy toward other idealistic activities. The sense of triumph that came from the elimination of AIDS as a disease in 2045 had further reinforced the belief that determined idealistic people could change events. The very experience of creating a pan-African public health service and systematically enlisting volunteers in a campaign to save the already infected and to vaccinate everyone else with the new AIDS vaccine had created a sense of sharing in a cause that people had found emotionally and psychologically gratifying. Here at home, the powerful sense of commitment to large projects had created a new sense of sharing. The wealth created by the information revolution and the new developments in biology and nanoscale science and technology had created the first mass aristocracy in history. Most Americans from all backgrounds found themselves with incomes beyond their imagination. People whose parents had worked long hours just to achieve middle-class status now found work a discretionary part of their experience. Increasingly their children, born into nice homes, comfortable incomes, and more ability to travel, looked for a more idealistic, more self-actualizing, and more people-oriented way to spend their lives. Looking out over the thousands of ethnically diverse Americans, a woman of color-now a United States president and a testimony of King's dream fulfilled-speaks of the idealism that Dr. King has inspired in her. The spirit of mutual commitment and sacrifice that so deeply defined the civil-rights movement of the 1960s was revived in the mid-21st century and became a calling to a generation of young people who sought to and succeeded in literally changing the planet. The result was a world that was freer, safer, and more prosperous because of citizen volunteers. It is truly possible in 2063 to believe that the Dream is being obtained. The vision Dr. King had in 1963 has been resurrected in a way that is profoundly transforming the human race. The day has finally come.

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