January 17th 2013 - |
In October of 1995, when I was reporter for CBS news, I covered a
controversial gathering on the National Mall in Washington D.C. which has since
been coined "one of the most important modern events in the civil rights
struggle". The Million Man March was designed to bring African-American men
together to empower them to deal with economic and social ills plaguing their
I often think back to that day in January of each year when we celebrate
the birthday of a man who's leadership not only changed the future of all
African-Americans, but of all Americans.
Dr. Martin Luther King JR. would have been 84 years old this year. He has
been dead longer than he was alive, but his vision and his words live on
forever. I was always fascinated with Dr. King's work, but following the
Million Man March I researched him more thoroughly than ever before. Dr. King
will be forever remembered for the "I have a dream" speech, but some of his
other work is just as important, poignant and emotional.
"Beyond Vietnam" in 1967 was his most controversial. It was a speech
which destroyed his relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson and others
who supported civil rights legislation King had dedicated his life to. It took
a lot of courage for Dr. King to stand up against the war; it was the buildup in
Vietnam which Dr. King blamed for the dissolution of the Poverty Program as many
of our country's poor were shipped off to war. Dr. King had recently won the
Nobel Peace prize for fostering non-violence and civil disobedience in the civil
rights struggle and felt he had to speak out against the horrors of that war.
"If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read
"Vietnam"....so it is those of us who are yet determined that "America will be",
are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our
The last speech of Dr. King's life was delivered on April 3rd, 1968 just a
day before he was assassinated. It was titled "I've been to the Mountaintop"
and in many ways showed him at peace with what he accomplished, but realizing
much more work needed to be done.
"We've got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn't matter with me now.
Because I have been to the mountaintop and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would
like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about
that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the
mountain. 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. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of The
And the struggle indeed still goes on. But incredible strides have been
made. And one can only wonder what Dr. King would be thinking as President
Obama is sworn in for his second term as President of the United States on the
same day, this Monday January 21st, that we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
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