One world home for everyone.
One dream, one song
One song heard by everyone.
from: One Light, One Sun
written by Raffi
illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1988
Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the third Monday in January, a day set aside to honor a great visionary, activist, and unifier. The United States has been celebrating this national holiday since 1986. A campaign to create it, though, began just four days after Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Not everyone held Martin Luther King, Jr., in high esteem. Actually, he was quite controversial in his own time. In a note written by J. Edgar Hoover in 1965, Hoover suggested Dr. King perform suicide to avoid the embarrassment of being exposed as a Communist.
Can you imagine!?
Of course, the accusation was false. It was a common tactic in those days of the 1950s and 1960s to accuse people of being Communists to keep them from speaking truth to power.
Coretta Scott King believed in her husband’s message of peace, though. She and Stevie Wonder worked together tirelessly to convince Congress that we, as a nation, needed to honor the memory of our “icon of democracy.”
Thirteen years into the struggle to make the national holiday dream come true, Stevie Wonder released a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to a posthumous King. Here’s the link to the YouTube recording. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inS9gAgSENE Two years later, in 1983, a congressional bill passed the House 338 to 90. When the bill reached the Senate, a spate of racism took over.
But, with President Reagan’s defense of Dr. King, the bill passed out of the Senate (78 to 22) and finally, three years after that, in 1986, Reagan signed it into law. In the president’s own words, “[Martin Luther King] challenged us to make real the promise of America as a land of freedom, equality, opportunity, and brotherhood.”
Some of us are still working toward those goals. Some others of us are not.
As I write this, the sun is shining, the air is warm, and the sidewalks are full of spectators. I had the grand plan to find a spot toward the beginning of the parade and salute each flag as it marched past, applaud each high school band, and wave to lucky kids who got to ride in the cars of city councilors and police officers.
I am on vacation in a city I’ve visited many times, but I don’t really feel like I “belong” here. I was comfortable in my side-lined spot when, imagine this! not one, but two friends from home called to me and my husband and encouraged us to march with them.
And, even though I was a comfortable spectator, we decided to join the people making a difference. We stepped up to march proudly with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Naples.
At first, marching in the MLK parade in Naples, Florida, seemed like the epitome of irony. Naples boasts one of the wealthiest economies in the United States and is consistently ranked as one of the best places to retire. The crowd is anything but diverse. People consider shopping a hobby. Maseratis, Jaguars, and Bentleys slide past each other in lanes of traffic next to Rolls Royces, Ferraris, and lots of sporty cars I can’t even name. Designer clothes and shoes and bags are as common here as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are at home.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of the people. He believed the words of the Constitution that proclaim all [people] are equal. He worked for liberty and justice for all. He continually preached a message of encouragement to downtrodden, overwhelmed, poor people who had given up on the American Dream.
In words from his collection of sermons published in 1963, Strength to Love, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.”
“All for one and one for all” rings as true today as it did in when Alexander Dumas had his three musketeers speak it in 1844. It is only when all the members of a group support each of the individual members, and the individual members pledge to support the group, that mighty progress will happen. When we work together toward common goals, encouraging compassion and building a productive society, democracy will flourish.
In the end, whether you drive a Bentley, a Ford pick-up or a Prius, whether you love to shop or love to support social action (or both), whether you are charitable or need to receive charity, know that we are more alike than different.
And the similarities are much more important. Really.
-—stay curious! (and be a unifier)