Civil Rights Leader Andrew Young: Like Obama, Joshua Had Rough Go in Promised Land

By Alex Pepper

Jul 2, 2010 2:23pm

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: President Obama has cast his role in the civil-rights movement as part of the “Joshua Generation” – those who were tapped to lead the movement after their elders journeyed to the Promised Land. On ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” today, we asked Andrew Young — a legendary civil rights leader who was a close aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — how that analogy holds up a year and a half into the Obama presidency. “If you'll remember your Bible, when Joshua and Caleb crossed into the Promised Land, it was not easy,” said Young, a former UN ambassador, member of Congress, and mayor of Atlanta. “There were giants in that land that they had to confront. And there was more hell in the Promised Land in the early days than there had been wandering in the wilderness. “But I think that that analogy is a very appropriate one — but you've got to read the Bible enough to understand that the Promised Land has never been an easy sell for the children of Israel. It is not to this day. In fact, I say the Promised Land for the Israelites has been America, as it has been for black America.” Reminded that Joshua never had to deal with an oil spill, Young quipped: “Well, he didn't get the oil. If he'd turned the other way [in the Middle East], they’d have inherited the oil.” Asked to grade Obama on his time in office, Young said: “It would be unfair to give him a grade right now because most of this mess he inherited. And I can't blame him for the disaster in the Gulf. What I think is that he has done a masterful job of holding together a world economy and natural disasters that are threatening to destroy everything we have worked through through the years. “I grew up with Franklin Roosevelt, and not since Franklin Roosevelt has a president inherited so much difficulty. But I think the fact that he remains calm, that he remains rational, and that he is struggling daily with all of these issues — I'd have to give him an ‘A’ for effort.” We also asked Young to assess the legacy of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but later repudiated his former positions. “In many ways, it’s the legacy of our entire nation,” Young said. “We've come a long way in the 90 or so years that Sen.Byrd has grown up. We've come a long way in my 78 years. And one of the things we learned we had to do in order to move on — we have to forgive, if not forget. And I think that what I've done is try to watch and help my opponents from the ’50s and ’60s grow in the ’90s and in this 21st century. And we've done that with some success. I just wish the right wing would understand that things really don't change in America. They grow one way or another. And the more ridiculous you get in your criticisms, the more difficult you make it for us to grow.” Young is the co-author, with his godson, Kabir Sehgal, of a new book: “Walk in My Shoes: Conversations between a Civil Rights Legend and his Godson on the Journey Ahead.” Of his co-author, Young said: “We're exactly 50 years apart: He's almost 28, and I just turned 78. So any subject you pick, we've got extremely different viewpoints. But he's intelligent enough to criticize me and probe me and make me think of answers for him, and he then challenges me to think about answers for the future.” Watch the “Top Line” segment with Andrew Young HERE. For today’s “Post Politics” segment, we checked in with Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post on the coming congressional agenda, plus the latest gaffe from RNC Chairman Michael Steele, where he cast doubt on the troop surge in Afghanistan, and called the conflict “a war of Obama’s choosing.” Watch the discussion with Perry Bacon Jr. HERE.

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