?You can?t praise dreams today while preserving the nightmare tomorrow.?
These were some of the words of Julian Bond, who discussed the status of minorities in America in his speech ?Civil Rights, Now and Then? in a packed Strong Auditorium. Bond was invited to give the first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address last Friday.
Bond is chairman of the Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the ?biggest, baddest, boldest and best organization,? as he put it.
Bond said he believes that much progress has been made in the area of civil rights in the past 35 years, but it is not enough.
?There has been so much change, but so much remains the same,? he said. ?There are still such large gaps [between races] in life expectancy, income, health and education.?
Bond expressed that no ?magic action would close the gap.? He said that only by ?asking people? and ?getting them involved? can the gap be narrowed.
?We believe that we should see more than white faces on color TV,? he said.
He singled out racial discrimination as a crucial issue to be addressed.
?It is at the bottom of all the problems that colored people face,? he said. ?The problem of the 20th century is still the problem of the 21st.?
Bond said that civil rights are a ?now and then? preoccupation for the American people.
?It only comes up when it is completely necessary or during times of trouble,? he said.
Now and then
Comparing the people involved in the movement now and then, Bond said, ?People earlier had the belief that they could make a change in the movement. On the whole, I think today?s generation believes they cannot make a change ? Too many of my students believe they are impotent.?
When asked what King would think if he could see the present racial situation, Bond said that even though he couldn?t be sure of King?s exact words, ?He would have been very happy with the changes in the past 35 years, but still disappointed with other aspects that haven?t improved.?
Bond also expressed consternation over his belief that black votes in Florida were not counted, as well as over the nominations of John Ashcroft as attorney general and Gale Norton as secretary of the interior, questioning their future effect on racial progress.
Bond?s advice to young students was to ?find an organization out there that fits you and join it … I want my students to believe in heroes, hope and history,? he said.
Bond received a standing ovation at the end of his speech and the program ended with the audience singing ?We Shall Overcome.?