Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Refection on MLK Day

Buddy’s dad here.

Monday was a national holiday here in the US honoring the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let me start by saying that I’m an old guy, a child of the 60’s. I was 10 when Dr. King was murdered. I remember hearing the news broadcasts that he had been shot in Tennessee and the police were looking for a man driving a white Mustang.

It was over 40 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday.

When I was little, I remember Iris, the first African American student to go to my elementary school. She was a pretty girl who came into my third grade class. I don’t remember any protests or issues at all. She was just there one day. We all played together at recess and ate at the same lunch table in the cafeteria. She was another kid, really no different from me.

The next year, another African American student entered my class and soon the schools were fully integrated. The county made the former black high school the middle school and I went there along with all the other seventh graders. From a kid’s perspective, all seemed to go pretty smoothly.

As a kid, I watched the nightly news with my parents. I saw video footage of riots in the streets in big cities. There were marches on Washington, fires and violent protests in cities that seemed so far away.

But it wasn’t just the African American community that was protesting. College kids were protesting the Vietnam War. There were people protesting at the presidential convention in Chicago. Women were protesting demanding equal rights. It seemed like everybody was upset about something.

There was violence. Every night on the news showed more: film footage of the carnage in Vietnam, footage of various protests, cities with whole blocks burned during riots. It seemed like it would never end and it was scary.

I seem to remember hearing Dr. King’s I have a dream speech broadcast on TV one night. It could have been a film shown in school, but I don’t think so. If you’ve never heard it, I would encourage you to listen to it on the web. It’s amazing.

Even as a little boy, I understood what he said. I heard the truth he spoke. I heard the passion in his voice. His words brought clarity to a frightened little boy that prior to those words didn’t understand why all the adults were fighting.

To say Dr. King was a great man may be the understatement of the century. He was a leader who could express the injustice we felt in our hearts. He could stir passion in his listeners and prompt people to try to right wrongs. He didn’t listen when people told him to be patient; that justice would come in time. He promoted peaceful protest and led people to take charge of their lives and their futures.

He is someone that I wish was here today to lead us. His wisdom could help this country in so many ways now.

Back in 1968, a murderer robbed the people of the United States of one of its most valuable thinkers of the twentieth century. We so need him today.

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