In fact the only one that came close to welcoming marchers to Washington, DC was President John Kennedy with the 1963 civil rights march on Washington. The President invited the leaders into the White House that day for coffee and rolls to hear their concerns and demands. It was a stroke of genius. In fact, he made sure some of his critics were included in those meetings so as not to look like window dressing.
The rumors abound about what President Obama will do during the march. Will he leave town and play golf in San Francisco? Will he head to Camp David for a family weekend? Some are claiming within HRC circles that he will be attending their National Dinner at the DC Convention Center the night before the march.
No one is clear except the White House inner circle. What is apparent is that whatever he does they are holding back to the last minute and don't intend to tip their hand since the march is less two weeks away. If he goes to the dinner it will not be in time to make official invites and unlike the Congressional Black Caucus and other dinners, there will not be a lot of warning of his attendance.
However since rumors abound and sometimes speculation can be fun, why not join in on it? There is no question it would be disappointing and yet predictable for the Obamas to leave town. But wouldn't it be nice for him to be the first president since Kennedy to actually stay in the White House? Remember Richard Nixon surrounded the White Houses with buses to keep marchers away and out of sight. Already the National Park Service has given us permission to walk right in front of the White House.
Joining the guessing game, here is what I think: Based on how quickly the White House reacted to the Department of Justice "brief" disaster last June, I expect them to take some sort of action in the next 11 days to temper the tone of the marchers. My guess would be if they can get it through Congress the president will sign a hate crimes bill and maybe even go to the HRC dinner to be introduced by Judy Shepard. Maybe he will he even finally appoint a gay ambassador and implement the long rumored lifting of the HIV travel ban.
If that happens our reaction should be clear. We should celebrate and praise any victory. After all, other presidents have failed to obtain hate crimes legislation and the rise in violence against the LGBT community speaks loudly for its needs. That is what we are fighting for this week and the next and the next one....
But let us not assume that we can wait long months and initiate another march to stimulate more change for additional progress. The march is about full equality now. Not to have our freedom dribbled out over four to eight years to match a timeline in a political war room. We need full freedom, equality and justice now and we already have squandered some valuable political time just as we are entering into a very uncertain 2010. Giving us hate crimes one year and then ENDA maybe after the next elections and then maybe repealing DOMA and DADT in the second term just doesn't cut it. Think of the lives that will be destroyed and gifts lost to our great nation because of fear.
Many organizations and people have worked years for a hate crimes bill and they deserve praise and not cynical reactions about convenient timing and political need. We will join them in celebrating any progress but not be tamed by one timid step forward. Our mission is clear and our goal is strong.
As they see the thousands, whether it is 10,000 or a 100,000, they will see a people determined to live in full equality like other Americans. So whatever the president does or does not do is a short term item of short term interest. In the end, if we continue to organize and fight hard for our freedom I believe he will do the right thing simply because we have removed so many other options for him. A great woman, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, once said, "After all, honey, courage is just a lack of options."