This commentary was originally posted on August 26, 2013. It is a shame that both parties and their leaders have decided to divide, rather than unite us. It doesn’t matter the topic: division, it seems, is the key to control. My question is simple: What would Martin say?
As always, your comments are welcome.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Content of Character
Fifty years ago this Wednesday, August 28, 1963, less than three months before America and the world changed, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr gave one of the most important and prolific speeches in American History at the end of the peaceful March on Washington. This March was the culmination of a very long and hot summer, where violence seemed to rule the attitudes of the civil rights movement.
I was in a hospital in New York City in May of that year, just before my 12th birthday and I remember watching TV with the other boys in the ward, all of whom were black, and the news showed the terrible events taking place in Birmingham, and other cities in the south, where police turned water hoses and dogs on unarmed women, men and children walking in the street. For a white kid living in the north, I felt that this was the most horrid thing I ever saw. I had hoped the others in the room did not see this, or at least, did not understand.
This was the summer that I truly understood the meaning of what African Americans had been asking for, the rights I assumed all Americans were entitled to and enjoyed, but did not. The news was filled with stories like this all summer, and as the date of the March drew closer, many law enforcement and administration officials implored President Kennedy to request the leaders to call off the March.
Instead, he took the position that the leaders assured him that the March would be peaceful. However, common sense also prevailed; bars were closed, extra police and federal law enforcement were activated, the ballgame scheduled for that night was postponed. For this, President Kennedy and the civil rights leaders were rewarded with the most peaceful March of this sort, this massive, that summer and in history.
More violence occurred over the next few years, but Americans now understood Dr King’s message of non-violence. Soon after the world changed, legislation to end discrimination in this country became law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, two landmark laws to help along Dr King’s dream.
I have provided the link for you to read Dr King’s speech in its entirety.
I, too, have that dream.