There was the following statement in the article written by Michel Norris in Time magazine (August 26 issue) under the title “One Dream.”

“Trayvon Martin case, Obama said, “I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.” With that statement, the distance between the preacher and the President was much like an image in an automobile’s side view mirror: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

I don’t get a clear idea of the latter half of the above statement. I know objects in the side mirror are closer than they appear from my driving experience. But what does the analogy of an image in the mirror with “the distance” between Dr. King and President Obama account for?

Is there the distance (of equality claim / stance) between Dr. King and President Obama? If there is, what is the distance between them in short?

Does it mean the racial segregation issue was much immediate and pressing for Dr. King that time than to President Obama today, i.e., President Obama can look segregation issues more 'objectively' than Dr. King did in the time stage of 1963?

Could you parse the meaning of the last line following “With that statement ...”?

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    Today in the US it is understood by many non-blacks that the problems in society that led to the Civil Rights movement are a thing of history, not really applicable to today's life. Obama is trying to emphasize to his audience that for blacks, past abuses are still remembered vividly, and that racism is still perceived today. Obama gave his speech on the anniversary of MLK's famous 'I have a dream speech.' The writer is trying to argue that racial problems are more acute today than some may think (and so Obama's speech has purposes closer to MLK's than might seem).
    – user31341
    Sep 28, 2013 at 20:44
  • @jlovegren, I think I would make that misunderstood! Sep 29, 2013 at 2:59
  • I came to realize that the "distance" between the preacher and the President is not the "gap" (of experience of segregation / recognition) between the preacher and the President, but the distance "for both" the preacher and the President. I hope this interpletation is on the mark. Sep 30, 2013 at 7:38

1 Answer 1


I'm not certain of this, but it seems to me that he is saying the president has a better understanding of what Trayvon Martin’s life was like than he is saying. In other words, his statement about the community’s collective memory is stronger and more thoroughly shared by the community than his words imply, and that President Obama has experienced more discrimination in his own life than he will discuss. He is “closer to” King experience and King’s knowledge than he appears.

The journalist implies that readers do not know how much experience President Obama has had of discrimination and prejudice, and that he is unwilling to speak more frankly than that from the Oval Office perspective. “Objects are closer than they appear,” means, though he appears far (in the White House) from the slum experience of life because of his elected office, but he nonetheless knows what he is talking about from personal experience. President Obama did not use the word “we” in his statement, but he could have.

I think that is correct, because, even if he did not have a black father around to pass on his experiences, He grew up in his skin, and had to have his own negative experiences throughout the years, and Obama spent three years in the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer, offering counselling and assisting people's access to services and education. So he experienced all that goes on, and also had the opportunity to hear of it from many others. He had to try to overcome the barriers in order to help people.

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