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Posted at 2:41 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Tavis Smiley: Obama must do more to live up to King's ideals

By Hamil R. Harris

tavissmiley.jpg
Tavis Smiley, left, and Cornel West. (Photo by Hamil R. Harris/The Washington Post)

President Obama might have a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office, but PBS commentator Tavis Smiley said what the president does in terms of policy is far more important than honoring the slain civil rights leader in the White House.

"I think putting the bust of King in the Oval Office instead of Winston Churchill was a nice trade-off," Smiley said. "I celebrate that, but it is more than just having the bust in the Oval Office: It is really about living up to the ideals that King stood for, getting us out of these wars that we are engaged in."

Smiley's comments came hours before his scheduled "America's Next Chapter" town hall meeting at George Washington University, where a panel of leaders and media personalities will discuss the president's agenda at the midpoint of his White House tenure.

Panelists include Princeton University Professor Cornel West; David Frum, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush; Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC's "Closing Bell"; Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post; and Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director and co-founder of Voto Latino.

Since Obama was sworn in, Smiley has been one of the president's loudest critics, and on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the King holiday, that isn't changing.

"If we are going to be true to anything, we ought to be true to what King's ideals were all about," Smiley said. "Justice for all, service to others and a love that liberates people, not just for Wall street ... not just for the rich, the lucky and the elite, but for everyday people."

By Hamil R. Harris  | January 13, 2011; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency, Ethics  
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Comments

and last but not least...brother West needs a good barber and orthodontist..

Posted by: quavaduff | January 16, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Does Mr. Smiley still believe that OJ was innocent. Mr. Smiley came to the front of the line in the "media entertainment" business as a result of his self promotion of himself using the racial divisiveness of the OJ Simpson murder trials.....he then developed his annual state of black america conferences each year that talked loud but accomplished nothing more than promoting Mr. Smiley and other media entertainers....he wanted to be Hillary's favorite negro but President Obama got int the way of that.... that is the primary reason Mr. Smiley has hated on President Obama so badly, he beat Ms. Hillary in the primary... Mr. Smiley lost his mind after that and continues to unsuccessfully locate it.... Who gives a rats a** what that "closet" hater thinks.... go away tavis

Posted by: quavaduff | January 16, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Smiley uses the African-American community as his platform. Apart from his self-promotion, what substantially has he done for it?

Posted by: bkc2145 | January 16, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Smiley uses the African-American community as his platform. Apart from his self-promotion, what substantially has he done for it?

Posted by: bkc2145 | January 16, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Tavis has become irrelevant.

Posted by: oakiedokie1 | January 16, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I marched in the sixties during the civil rights movement, and so did my late husband. I think that Tavis and each of us should ask ourselves what have we done to live up to Dr. King's ideals. Dr. King was an humble man and I'm not sure if he would approve of us using him to criticize Pres. Obama. I wish Tavis would have a forum in the urban neighborhoods where many of our children are undereducated and murdered.I wish he and Dr. West would stress the importance of education as a way out of poverty. It was Frederic Douglass who said that the way out of darkness is through the blessings of an enlightened education.I wish Tavis and Dr. West would spend time talking directly to our young boys and young men and encourage them to look within themselves to improve their lives: to stay in school, study hard, to not become a father if you aren't able to support your child. I wish Tavis and Dr. West would have a forum on the Black family. We need to look back at the strength of our ancestors to gain footing, for they emerged from slavery and unspeakable poverty to to make the lives of their children better. They stressed education, hard work, respect for family and community. They may have been poor in material possessions, but they were never poor in spirit.After the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, they encouraged us to take advantage of the doors that were opening for us. I believe if Dr. King were alive today, yes, he would want us to hold our elected officials accountable, but he would, first, want us to hold ourselves accountable. I visited the exhibit of his papers when they were on display at the the Atlanta History Center and in his writings he encouraged us not to think ourselves as victims. I also think that Dr. King would be overjoyed that Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Posted by: mrgrbrad2 | January 15, 2011 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Keeping It Real!

I'm glad that many people know Tavis Smiley history as it pertains to him hating on President Obama. Tavis Smiley is nothing more then a wolf in sheep clothing, because he acts as if his interest is all about the least of these but it's really about keeping his face in the lime light.

Never have I seen a man so jealous of another man like Tavis is of Obama. Every time I see him on TV, all he does is bash Obama. He tries to deceive the viewers into believing he's trying to help Obama and that his criticism comes out of love.

What's really unfortunate is how Cornel West has jumped on board the anti-Obama train. Cornel and Tavis no longer has any credibility and should never be trusted by anyone. They gave a false impression about the president on C-Span yesterday.

I could not believe my ears when they actually tried to make the case that Obama don't care about the poor or black people. They tried to give the impression that unless you've been poor you don't care. I'm sure they are aware of the fact that the president was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

When Obama came to Chicago, he was a community organizer who made thirteen thousand dollars a year. The man had holes in the bottom of his shoes and car. Obama do understand what it's like to be poor, etc. Obama understands also that people overall are just looking for a hand up and not a hand out!

Tavis Smiley needs to recognize and get over the fact that his candidate Hillary Clinton lost the primary. Tavis tried to deceive the public into believing he wasn't a Hillary supporter, but the average person who observed his rhetoric and behavior knew differently.

Tavis and Cornel objective is to turn African Americans against the president. It's driving them crazy that they haven't been successful in their mission. Cornel was well respect but he's allowing Tavis to pull him onto a sinking ship.

The bottom line is, the president have accomplished more in two years in comparison to his predecessors have in two terms. I'm very proud of the president because of his love of the least of these and for helping this country period.

What I would suggest to anyone who wants to find out just what the president has accomplished on the behalf of the people, is to go the website http://whitehouse.gov and review the legislation that has been passed, etc. Anyone with a pulse who believes in government working on behalf of the people should be impressed.

If I was to meet Tavis Smiley or Cornel West, I would suggest to them to stop bashing Obama and lying on the man, because every time they try to discredit the president, they make themselves look like haters acting like crabs in a barrel.

Finally, the president has never tried to put himself on the level of MLK which was suggest by Tavis and Cornel. Hopefully he will exceed MLK dreams, because I'm sure Martin wouldn't prefer it any other way, if he had his choice, since he loved moving forward.

Posted by: jan281965 | January 14, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Would Tavis Smiley had said that Hillary Clinton, whom he supported in the last election, should to live up to King's dream? I think not. Tavis Smiley is a jackal who speaks against Obama every chance he gets and is not to be taken seriously. He has been miffed with Barack Obama ever since that litte backstabbing party he planned in the South during the campaign. He had an affair, honoring Clinton, his candidate, and also invited candidate Obama. This was a deliberate sabotage act as Smiley knew the then Senator would not come and rightfully so. When Obama declined, Tavis Smiley then went on the offensive and made statements which were absolute lies and inuendos. The very classy Barack Obama ignored his rants and concentrated on his own campaign. Smiley really ramped it up then and went all out to discredit Obama, to no avail. Smiley needs to get it in his head once and for all that President Barack Obama is the President OF ALL THE PEOPLE of the USA, not just Blacks. To expect him to act otherwise is offensive to me and I am a 70-year-old African-American. I love my country and the citizens within, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic and that is in part, thanks to Obama and his campaign that brought so many people of all races together. Smiley backed the wrong horse, didn't get that White House job he thought he would have with Hilary and is trying to correct it...So not happening. Tavis has become so unfocused, that I no longer watch or listen to him on NPR. I have no respect for him, at all. As I said in the beginning of this comment, the man is a jackal and not to be trusted.

Posted by: fairnsquare | January 13, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Bro Tavis is entitle to his opinions. I appreciate his perspectives but his notion of criticizing President Obama with Dr. King's legacy is off base. He must have forgotten, the vitriol and hatred Dr. King had to deal with his last years.
On the other hand, President Obama is entering his 3rd year and he has used much to tout Dr. King. Surely, we are disappointed but his term is NOT OVER, therefore we are hopeful so let's not totally dismiss what can be achieved, as if it represents talking points for an upcoming symposium.

Posted by: fredyt3 | January 13, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Bro Tavis is entitle to his opinions. I appreciate his perspectives but his notion of criticizing President Obama with Dr. King's legacy is off base. He must have forgotten, the vitriol and hatred Dr. King had to deal with his last years.
On the other hand, President Obama is entering his 3rd year and he has used much to tout Dr. King. Surely, we are disappointed but his term is NOT OVER, therefore we are hopeful so let's not totally dismiss what can be achieved, as if it represents talking points for an upcoming symposium.

Posted by: fredyt3 | January 13, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

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