Defending the American Dream
July Fourth is a good reminder of the dream that African Americans -- and all Americans -- can't afford to let slip away.
Our modern-day story is not about the enslavement of the body; it is about enslavement of the mind and spirit. It's reflected in the tragic breakup of the black family, the unprecedented diminishment of black leadership, and the erosion of faith in ourselves and one another.
As we seek to address the external issues that confront our community, let's use this Independence Day to declare ourselves free to address the internal issues that also affect our community. Only then can we begin to create a policy environment centered around opportunities for ownership and prosperity, which allow us to develop wealth to pass down to future generations.
These first two steps -- admittedly, not baby steps -- will require a resolution of mind and spirit unprecedented since Martin Luther King Jr. wrote to us from his Birmingham jail cell. They require an approach to governance that is focused on freedom and the election of leaders who are prepared to legislate on behalf of that freedom -- not offer up status quo lip service in ignorance of the true state of the black community.
Those who came before us made our freedom possible. Their efforts are why you and I can pursue happiness today. Now we have the responsibility to do the same thing for this generation. As our nation celebrates her birthday on the one hand and struggles to regain her fiscal footing on the other, she must know that she can't do it without us.
True, we should be concerned about a rising tide lifting all boats, but we should be more concerned about having a boat to begin with. That is our birthright, and we must claim it along the highways and byways of this country, in the diners and barbershops, in the church halls and pool halls, and especially in the halls of our state capitols, Congress and the White House. And when we do, we will truly be free to open wide the gates to the American dream for our children, their children and each successive generation. We should celebrate no less on every Fourth of July to come.
Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007.