by Kristian Davis Bailey, ’14
This week the United States made history by re-electing Barack Obama as its first African-American president. While the political climate of our country may have had a sobering effect on the national mood, the overall tone of campus seemed to be one of celebration. Cheers of excitement rang from the lounge of my dorm in Ujamaa House, Stanford’s African and African American themed dorm. The larger campus as a whole seemed to echo this enthusiasm–88% of students voted for Obama in the 2012 elections, according to The Stanford Daily.
In the midst of this environment, I had the chance to speak with Dr. Clayborne Carson for fifteen minutes on his responses and reactions to President Obama’s reelection. Carson has been tasked with editing and publishing the complete papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. and directs the Martin Luther King Research Institute at Stanford.
I am currently a student in Carson’s introduction to African American history course “The Modern African American Freedom Struggle,” where we are trying to figure out what gains blacks have made in our modern freedom struggle since 1968. Our comparative discussions framed my conversation with Carson.
‘Act on your own, force Obama to follow your will’
It is necessary for students to create their own progressive pressure on the political system, Carson told me Tuesday night.
“If [people] believe that Obama was the best choice, they shouldn’t just leave it to Obama to carry out any kind of progressive agenda,” Carson said, adding that grassroots support is a necessary factor in creating effective policy.