Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. None of the speeches today were as magical that amazing speech, but it was important to commemorate the event. Congressman John Lewis, who spoke in 1963 and again today, said it’s wrong to talk as if nothing has changed in 50 years. The dream has not been fully realized, it is under attack, we need to be vigilant, and yet we did make progress. Obama spoke of the many people who are not famous and don’t get any publicity, yet through their principled daily lives further the cause of freedom and justice for all.
I watched the event today in part because I couldn’t watch it 50 years ago. I lived in a home where the TV was turned off when black faces appeared. My father was the only one of seven siblings who never let go of the notion that only white people are fully human. Once when he was taken by ambulance to the local hospital, my mother told the staff admitting him that under no circumstances should he be attended by the only black doctor on staff – crazy, crazy, crazy. I never told my parents that I had black friends at school, that I had professors who were of various races, that my first teaching partner was a black woman, or that we had a Japanese landlord. To stay connected to my family, I had to carefully edit everything I said.
So today, I watched the festivities just because I could. As for those who said that the civil rights movement was a movement to free us all? They spoke the truth.