Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heroic Individuals : Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was blessed to grow up during a time of heroic individuals.
  • Men, women (and children) who were not afraid to sit at white lunch counters;
  • northern college students who risked their lives to register voters in the unfriendly south;
  • families braving dogs, fire hoses and angry police to march in a peaceful protest; and
  • one scared black teenager, walking through a line of National Guardsmen to enter college.
It was an exhilarating time to be alive and to be an American. Things were changing. Men were breaking the sound barrier, circling the planet and flying to the moon. It was a time before the three assassinations that bled hope from a generation. It was before the disillusionment set in about the Viet Nam War.

One man who illuminated this time period was Martin Luther King, Jr., and it is his birth that we celebrate. Although he was born on January 15, his birth is celebrated officially, with a Federal Holiday, on a Monday closest to that date.

MLK, Jr. was a wonderful orator with the booming voice of a minister. His speeches were mesmerizing. Sometimes, I read the passage below and think he must have had a premonition of his own death.
. . . And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.

Martin Luther King Jr.,
Speech in Memphis, April 3, 1968
King was assassinated the next day

Even if he did suspect his time was near, he would not take additional precautions. He was used to the bombs, telephone calls and death threats that plagued his last years on Earth. He was a man of the people and he wanted to be where they were.

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