Video

Why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is my Hero

28 Aug

This video still makes me cry 50 years later. Makes me cry with its poignancy. Makes me cry with its promise. Makes me cry with its evocative qualities.

I am listening to it right now. “I Have a Dream . . .”

Today is the 50 year anniversary of that speech. And we still have so far to go in racial reconciliation. In basic respect and human dignity.

“Now is the time . . .”

Dr. Martin Luther King was introduced on that day as “the moral leader of our nation.” I believe that was true. I was raised to deny that, but I have come to believe it was true.
If not, who was? John F. Kennedy? Lyndon B. Johnson? Richard M. Nixon?

I am aware that Dr. King most certainly had extramarital affairs. My relatives brought that up as I was growing up as their objection to making him a hero. I say that that was a double standard.

JFK had extramarital affairs, too. Only the press turned a blind eye to his affairs as the FBI followed Dr. King around, believing him to be a possible danger to our country.

Ironically, one of JFK’s affairs has subsequently been tied to someone in the mob (not saying that he had mob ties, but just that he shared a woman with a mob boss, not cool!). Yet the FBI pursued Dr. King and ignored JFK. A total double standard.

And in all that, Dr. King continued his work for racial equality. He didn’t stop to face down the FBI, he didn’t address the rumors about his personal life, he didn’t argue that what was being done to him was a double standard. He could have done that, but he did not.

He had more important work to do, and only 39 years in which to do it before someone ended his life!

Be careful what you say when you hold up a moral standard for heroes. Only Jesus Christ qualifies for that ultimately!

Certainly not many modern politicians can claim the moral high ground of being one man married to one woman for life. Even my modern hero, Ronald Reagan, divorced and remarried.

And I refuse to get into the debate of whether it is better morally to have a series of “serial marriages” or whether it is better to remain married to one person and have affairs. The Lord defined the standard as one man and one woman for life, so it is obvious that many of our generation have fallen short of his definition.

In fact, I think if we are seeking a heroic marriage in one of our heroic leaders, we might have to go all the way back to Abraham Lincoln and his tender care, for life, of his mentally ill wife. That was a touching story, for his generation and for ours. However, no president of the modern era could ever have a mentally ill wife in the White House, under the constant scrutiny of videographers. So let’s just put Lincoln in a hero class of his own forever.

I will get back to my point, with apologies for the digression. Having been raised in the culture of the 1970’s, it is necessary for me to denounce the things I was taught about Dr. King, the things people said to try to disqualify him as a hero. It is necessary for me to address those things because some members of my generation still believe them and still repeat them. I have come to vehemently disagree with those views and with those people.

Dr. King was a hero. He was willing to be jailed for his beliefs. He personified non-violent resistance. No one could dismiss him. No one could shake him. He changed our world.

Not enough change, yet, but he changed our world in many significant ways. I believe that I owe most of my warm, easy friendships with people of all races in the Navy to Dr. King’s leadership and influence.

So watch the video. Watch the introduction where blacks and whites together, with the men all clad in suits on a sweltering August day, march arm-in-arm into Washington singing “We Shall Overcome Some Day . . .”

Watch the video and weep for our potential.

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