And it’s a lesson we need to remember today – as members of another Joshua generation. It’s time for us to change America. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress.
And as I listened to him explain why he’d enlisted, the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all that any of us might hope for in a child. So it’s 1985, and I’m in Chicago, and I’m working with these churches, and with lots of laypeople who are much older than I am. And if we can do that – if we can embrace a common destiny – then I believe we’ll not just help bring about a more hopeful day in America, we’ll not just be caring for our own souls, we’ll be doing God’s work here on Earth.
I’m not talking about blind optimism here – the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. I was too young to be involved in that movement, but I felt I could play a small part in the continuing battle for justice by helping rebuild some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. But that is not yet the case. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists.
But at the end of the day, we cannot walk away – not for the sake of passing a bill, but so that we can finally address the real concerns of Americans and the persistent hopes of all those brothers and sisters who want nothing more than their own chance at our common dream. I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas.
If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.