If my take on Obama’s speech today is right, and he was in part signaling that we may have reached the end of what this generation of politicians can accomplish in the struggle for equality, then this line from President Clinton’s speech is interesting:

Dr. King’s dream of interdependence, his prescription of wholehearted cooperation across racial lines — they ring as true today as they did 50 years ago. Oh, yes, we face terrible political gridlock now. Read a little history; it’s nothing new. Yes, there remain racial inequalities in employment, income, health, wealth, incarceration, and in the victims and perpetrators of violent crime. But we don’t face beatings, lynchings and shootings for our political beliefs anymore. And I would respectfully suggest that Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock. It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back.

Easier said than done, of course. But it’s important to keep in mind that even if Obama was in some respects “passing the torch” today, the 42d President of the United States still sees himself–or perhaps his wife–as the wave of the future.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.