“We hold these truths to be self evident.” This is a quote that was heard around the world. It is a quote that continues to be heard around the world. For some these words offer a beacon of hope and modicum of protection. When these words were first uttered, America was in the throes of being born via a great revolution. During the revolution, Britain, the former colonial power held out hope for enslaved Africans that a British victory would translate into freedom. The many colonists attempted to echo the same sentiments. However, no sooner than the war was over, colonists began trying to lay claim to Africans as their property. A few enslaved refugees were assisted by the British, but not enough to dent the institution of African enslavement. The pre-amended Constitution gives evidence that African enslavement survived the American Revolution. This juncture of American history was a major missed opportunity to cause the new nation to leap forward as opposed to limping forward.
The presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and Civil War Amendments brought about an end to African enslavement in the United States. In the aftermath of the war, efforts to address the effects of African enslavement became known as Reconstruction. However, Reconstruction only lasted twelve years. It was virtually impossible to reverse the ravages of enslavement that lasted for hundreds of years within a twelve-year period. Bringing Reconstruction to an end and ushering in Jim Crow was another major missed opportunity for America to do the right thing. What ensued was close to one hundred years of systematic state sanctioned and state supported discrimination against people of African descent in particular and people of color in general.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Thurgood Marshall were present at the beginning of the Second Reconstruction or what is more popularly known as the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King and Rosa Parks marched. Thurgood Marshall litigated. All contributed to correcting the wrongs imposed by state sanctioned discrimination. Separate but equal was ruled to be unconstitutional. Discrimination in places of public accommodation was outlawed. The right to vote was expanded. Fair housing was addressed and affirmative action was look to as a way to abridge inequality. Then came election year 1968. Dr. King was assassinated. Lyndon Johnson, the Civil Rights President, decided not to seek reelection. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Richard Nixon, employing “the Southern Strategy” and the “silent majority,” became President of the United States. We can only surmise how different political life would have been if Robert Kennedy had been elected to two terms as opposed to Richard Nixon. Herein lies another missed opportunity for the nation.
Barack Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009. He will go down in history as the first Black President of the Untied States. He was not just the first Black President. Barack Obama was a person of extreme genuine goodwill. He received the Nobel Prize for Peace within his first year in Office. President Obama worked to advance health care for more Americans. President Obama knew how to strike the right cord to address America’s anguish. He became known as the “Consoler in Chief.” Obama also had a full eight years of a scandal free presidency.
Hillary Clinton was not elected President in 2016. This was another major missed opportunity for the nation to leap forward. It was argued that Clinton would have been the third and possibly fourth term of the Obama presidency. This was not true. Clinton was indeed her own person. But even if it were true, what would have been wrong with extending and improving upon the policy agenda of Barack Obama. Women’s rights would have been advanced. Police departments across the nation would have been held accountable for their actions. Health care would have been expanded. Neo-Nazis and White supremacists would still be on the fringe. Perhaps gun control would still be debated? Voting rights would be protected. The nation would have been in the hands of strong and competent leadership. When you really think about it, what a major missed opportunity it was on the part of this nation not to elect Hillary Clinton as President.