Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Should We Remember?

Last night, a group of volunteers and one school teacher put on an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The school superintendent, mayor and city manager took part. Dancers from a local studio performed. A storyteller made the civil rights movement come alive with her personal stories. Kids got prizes for their drawings and essays about ‘hewing from the mountain of despair, a stone of hope’ – from one of Dr. King’s great speeches. And an accomplished composer played and sang an original song.

Why? So we would remember --remember how hard it was to make the progress we have made in race relations – and how far we have to go. Not just in race relations, but in class relations and gender relations [and human relations in general!].  If we don’t create special events, we might forget.

Last year, I had a tiny speaking part in our MLK event:

Great men and women don’t start out either grown up or great. Like everyone else, they start out as kids.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life changed when he was six years old. Just before school was to start, he rang his best friend’s doorbell. He wanted to play but his friend’s father said his son couldn’t play with Martin any more. Why? Because Martin was black and his friend was white.

Until that moment, Martin had not realized the huge separation between blacks and whites. In the city where he grew up, black people couldn’t sit at lunch counters with whites, or drink out of the same water fountains. And black children could not go to school – or play – with white children.

Martin’s whole adult life was dedicated to ending that separation. He helped change the world. His dedication began one moment when he was six years old.

There are still many things that need changing. I have two questions for the kids here tonight: When will your moment be? What will you do to change the world?

Looking back, I think that is a question each of us needs to answer.

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