MR. GREGORY: Tavis Smiley, tomorrow's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
MR. TAVIS SMILEY: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: He would have been 80 to see the inauguration of the first African-American president.
MR. SMILEY: And you can't escape that. What a, what a, what a 48-hour run it's going to be, celebrating the person who I regard as the greatest American we've ever produced, my own assessment, Dr. King; and then Mr. Obama's inauguration the next day. There have been so many King-Obama comparisons as, as evidenced by your question. I think, though, it's important to state that Obama's election is a down payment on King's dream, it is not the fulfillment of King's dream, and that's a crucial, I think, and critical distinction we have to make. A significant down payment to be sure, and King would certainly be celebrating this moment. But the closest thing in King's lifetime to this Obama moment was the election of the first black mayor of a major American city, Carl Stokes in
. King went to Cleveland and, if I can paraphrase it this way, talked about this notion of black faces in high places. And while that's something to celebrate, there is work to be done and we have got to keep the focus on the issues. And where Mr. Obama is concerned, while black Cleveland Americaand all of will certainly celebrate this, because King is, again, not just a black leader, he's the best of what Americais all about. America
So, the message is: L