Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech, delivered August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. I’d planned to do a special blog about the significance of that event, but ‘the best laid plans of mice and men,’ and all that interfered. This is, in fact, the first day in a couple of weeks that I’ve been able to sit comfortably at my keyboard long enough to write more than a paragraph or delete a few dozen emails. Since the day is here, and I’ve not had time to think about what I wanted to write, I will refer readers to my reminiscence of that day on Yahoo! Voices, ‘Living King’s Dream in a Most Unlikely Place.’ Instead of my planned blog, I will regale you with my adventures over the past two months, and maybe show how it relates.
On July 4, I fell prey to a situation that is all too common to people of my age, a fall. And, yes, I broke something – a very critical bone in my hip. Unfortunately, the fracture was small and didn’t show up on the x-rays in the ER when I went for treatment. It was only in August, when it still hurt more than the bruise we suspected it to be should hurt, that they did an MRI (on Aug. 14) and found the break. My primary doctor referred me to an orthopedist – that took a few days – who immediately scheduled me for surgery.
I checked into the hospital on Aug. 22 and the following day they put three screws in my hip to close the fracture and hold the bones in place until they heal. There followed three more days in the hospital; being awakened every three hours to take my pulse and blood pressure, or give me pain medication, changing dressings, checking the catheter, etc. The day after surgery, physical therapy started. How to walk with crutches or a walker, how to stand, how to sit, exercises to keep the leg muscles from becoming flaccid and prevent blood clots, and all the other things I need to do over the next two to three months to be fully healed.
A trip to the hospital is, I’m sure, a traumatic experience for everyone. For me, it was compounded by the fact that I’d reached my 68th year without ever spending a night in a hospital since being born in one, so I didn’t know what to expect. I think I was just learning hospital protocol when my doctor decided it was safe to send me home and had me discharged. I’ve never been happier getting kicked out of a place.
So, on this day, as we look back 50 years at Dr. King’s historic speech, how does my stay in the hospital relate? To start with, had this happened in 1963, the delays in getting treatment in the little East Texas town from whence I come wouldn’t have been administrative or technical – I might have actually been denied admission to some of the local medical establishments in my area. And, with all due respect to the Hippocratic Oath, the treatment I would have received from the country doctors in that era would have, in most cases, been limited to only what was legally necessary.
We still have a long way to go in this country before we’ve fully realized King’s ‘Dream,’ but we’ve also come a long way. I’ll spend this day thinking about the progress that has been made, and what I can do to help make more.
A Yahoo! Voices article on budget golfing in the DC area: http://voices.yahoo.com/article/9892352/come-washington-dc-area-golf-not-government-12170787.html?cat=16. Check it out.
In three days, on January 21, the nation prepares for the inauguration of Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President, for his second term. At the same time, we will pause throughout the country to honor a man whose efforts were instrumental in many ways in this historic inauguration. January 21 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a holiday marked every year on the third Monday in January since 1986, and since 2000, recognized in all 50 states.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist preacher. He followed his father’s profession, becoming a pastor in a church in the south, ministering to the needs of a then-segregated black community. The Montgomery bus boycott, sparked by Rosa Parks arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white male passenger, King became the leader of the national civil rights movement, and in 1957 helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his achievements in moving the cause of civil rights forward in the United States, and honored around the world, he is best remembered for his historic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, before an audience of 250,000 civil rights supporters at the close of the March on Washington. After the 1963 event, King turned his attention to a focus on poverty and the war in Vietnam, which he vehemently opposed.
In Memphis, Tennessee to support that city’s garbage workers in their strike for better wages and working conditions, King was slain by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968. His death touched off riots around the country in some of the worst racial violence the country has ever seen.
King’s words in Washington in 1963 are as appropriate today as they were then, given the economic and social problems plaguing the nation over 150 years after the end of the Civil War. We are still a nation of haves and have-nots, with millions going to bed at night with empty stomachs, without shelter, and deprived of the right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ The promissory note written by the Founding Fathers when they drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is still due for many. As King said, “In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir to.” We should take careful note of what he said after that, though. “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds . . . let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”
His dream, the American dream, remains largely a dream. To honor his legacy, it is up to us, each of us, to continue to work to make that dream a reality. Even though we might have to face the ‘difficulties of today and tomorrow,’ we should still cling to that dream, a dream that is ‘deeply rooted in the American dream.’
The election is over, and most of the ballots have been counted. It doesn’t matter, though, because enough ballots have been counted and certified to let us know who won the election except for a few local races that are still being adjudicated. Barack Obama is back in the White House for four more years, the Democrats retained control of the Senate with a slight increase in their majority, and the Republicans kept the House of Representatives, although, thankfully, a few of the nuttiest Tea Party representatives got sent home packing.
The winners have made gracious acceptance speeches, complimenting their opponents for their ‘active’ campaigns, and the losers have made even more gracious concession speeches, promising to work with their victorious opponents. That’s what we’ve seen on the surface, but my more than 50 years in and around Washington, DC and the other focal points of our government tells me that the reality is different from what we see.
The winners probably did victory laps around their hotel rooms, with lots of fist pumping and high-fiving of supporters. The losers, on the other hand, were probably snarling at the TV screen as they gulped down something strong to ease the sting of defeat, and instead of trying to figure out why the majority of American voters rejected them, are plotting to throw spanners in the way of the winners at every opportunity, and how to come up with a better spiel to sell us their snake oil next time out.
Let’s face it, we Americans are all about winning. We talk about being good losers and good winners, but in fact, we’re neither. We gloat when we win and plot and make excuses when we lose, and politicians are better or worse at it than the average guy, believe me. Just watch if you don’t believe me. The Republican-controlled House, despite Romney’s call for reaching across the aisle, will continue to block almost every initiative coming out of this Democratic administration, and the Senate will, for the most part, continue to be split along partisan lines.
If I’m wrong about this, I’ll be happy to eat my hat.