I was standing on the Washington Mall on Inauguration Day, alongside nearly two million other people, and proudly watched the first African American take the oath of office in our nationâ€™s history. That alone made the day deeply memorable, joyful, and historic. But I couldnâ€™t help but think â€” and Iâ€™m sure that millions of others had the same thought â€” that the transfer of power from Bush to President Obama not only tore down a barrier that once was thought near impenetrable, but also signified the fading away of one era and the beginning of another.The speaker: Sam Webb, National Chair, Communist Party, USA.
It was hard not to think on that cold day in our nationâ€™s capital that the worst of the past 30 years of right-wing extremist rule is behind us and that an era of progressive change is within reach, no longer an idle dream.
Just look at the new lay of the land: a friend of labor and its allies sits in the White House. Larger Democratic majorities control Congress. A feeling of renewal and hope is in the air. Public opinion polls show a high favorability rating for our new President. And the labor and peopleâ€™s movement that was so instrumental to the electionâ€™s outcome, after a short holiday pause, is off and running. First, we have to support the passage of the President's stimulus bill in the Senate.
Second, we have to block any Republican efforts to derail the nomination of Hilda Solis, the nominee for the Secretary of Labor. This is the first round in the battle to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which will dramatically expand the right to join a union in this country. Some may think this is a struggle of only the labor movement. But nothing could be further from the truth. A bigger labor movement in this country would strengthen the struggle on every front. No one expressed this point better than Martin Luther King toward the end of his life.
Third, we have to join others in resisting evictions and foreclosuresâ€”not to mention cutbacks and layoffs at the state and city level.
Fourth, the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan have to be brought to a close. As former President Lyndon Johnson realized too late, wars of occupation (in his case, Vietnam) can quickly ruin a presidency that has great promise.
In any case, we have our work cut out for us. But I think we can confidently say that change is coming. And we will build a more perfect union. Yes, we can.