What We Know Now (part 1)

Today, for the 11th time in his presidency, President Barack Obama travels to an American city to offer words of comfort after unspeakable tragedy.

The fatal shootings by police of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by the deliberate killing of 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas - events that occurred within days of each other, set off what may become a long, hot summer of protest.

Television, print, and social media bristle with a gamut of talk ranging from reasonable discussion to literal screaming matches. Whether or not guns kill people or people kill people, there are a lot of guns and a lot of killings, and everyone whose life matters is - or should be, looking for change.

Having worked as a community organizer after law school and before politics, then-Senator Obama brought his knowledge of how to effect change to his 2008 campaign for the presidency.

In January of that year, he told supporters:
“The reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago is because it’s not just about what I will do as president. It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it.”
By early February 2008, then-Senator Obama had already built a movement for change from the bottom up and was surging in all the primary polls. His campaign itself had become an example of the way change works - “bottom up.”

In March 2008, in his noteworthy Speech on Race, he insisted that America can, and has, changed:
“The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old - is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know - what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
Others saw that then-Senator Obama’s campaign for the presidency was more than that:
“What we are witnessing is not just a candidate but a profound, massive public movement for change. My endorsement is more for Obama The Movement than it is for Obama the candidate. That is not to take anything away from this exceptional man. But what’s going on is bigger than him at this point, and that’s a good thing for the country. Because, when he wins in November, that Obama Movement is going to have to stay alert and active. Corporate America is not going to give up their hold on our government just because we say so."  -Michael Moore
In September 2008, then-Senator Obama talked about change in a candidates forum:
 “It doesn't happen from the top down. It happens because the American people look up and they say, we imagine a world not as it is but as it should be, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves and put in the hard work to change this country, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, state by state. And that, I think, is the kind of president I would like to be is one that inspires more of that feeling and provides the avenues to express it." 
Today in Dallas, President Obama will speak words of comfort, he will encourage people to “listen to each other,” and surely he will hope and pray that change can progress in a peaceful manner.

For a compelling history of the 2008 campaign, as told by news media, politicians, and ordinary people, see King's Dream: Barack Obama Becomes President of the United States of America.