Monday, January 19, 2009

A Day for Kings, Presidents & People

Usually MLK Day has the media short changing the day into soundbitsy clips of the I Have A Dream speech to fit between commercials to do their duty and pay a quick homage. But now all is different. Twelve hours after the strike of midnight on the National Day of Service, a reparation or down payment on his Dream and last expressed wish about the Promised Land when Barack Obama puts his hand on Lincoln's smallish gilt edged Bible and swears an oath to serve as president. What makes the American heart beat remains filled with vast hopes and vital concerns to the rest of the world who will watch and hear a call to serve. Slavery's stains muted America's large bouncing check to reaching that More Perfect Union part of the program, until the morrow and the world will take note.

Odd that the Letter from a Birmingham Jail was a public oped crafted in a cell as a rebuttal against shortsighted black preachers meaning to lower the lofty aims of MLK and by extension the Civil Rights movement. Coverage of MLK Day with grainy images of the mall filled with 250,000 bus riding and marching folks from all over the nation will compare to the almost 1,000,000 who showed up for the We Are One event for the first bi-racial president. An eloquent letter of legacy, published in June of 1963, before the Dream speech that speaks across the decades to another movement filled with youthful vigor on matters of Life & death issues that shall not wait patiently. The glue that binds is based on character and courage. Maya Angelou often states without Courage none of the other Virtues can be practiced.

Martin Luther King Jr responded to a need to serve a seamstress thrown in jail for staying seated on a bus in 1955. Rosa Parks spent her spare time volunteering and serving as secretary for the Montgomery Alabama NAACP. The 21st century is in a deficit in the serving with a dearth of business leaders lapsing into lawless looting from the public funds and private market square. Now people must bridge the yawning gap, with not very many survival skills, to reach the other side except character built by service. Now another person of color with slaveholders in his past stood before Lincoln on the steps urging a call to action to serve with Courage and Characters.

Reverend King served from jail many times in the pursuit of Justice as promisedby the Founding documents and the Amendments arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation. Nonviolent with Civil Right's moral compass set on true north. The struggle for equality in the land of the free and home of the brave came via words accompanied by synchronized actions of service to the attention of those who bestow the honor of a Nobel peace prize.

In Oslo, Norway King's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (won through the blood and tears of a 35 year old) acts as another beacon on the scope of international heft focused on USA stated policies and oblivious practices. In the thousand year old Westminster Abbey, atop the Great West Door resides a robed figure carved in King's likeness from marble enshrined in
a pantheon of ten Christians dedicated to Martyr's of the world from the 20th century.

In Occupied Europe, a group of flying guardian Angels, literally, had the crappiest planes they fixed themselves, yet the most distinguished of flying records by winging it on faith and serving with courage to honor the sacrifices in the 1940's. They are known as the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Regiment
Seated near the back of Mount Zion's airy sanctuary, 85-year-old William Booker of Kirkland, a surviving Tuskegee Airman, leaned on his cane and marveled. His grandchildren, Marcus and Brandon, were singing in the children's choir. A few weeks earlier, the president-elect had sent a letter inviting him to the inauguration.

It was a far cry from the years of humiliation Booker and his unit had suffered during and after World War II, demeaned by their own country as inept and too intellectually inferior to be fighter pilots.

The airmen's success in combat in fact contributed to desegregating the military, bolstering a fledgling civil rights movement and broadened acceptance of blacks as leaders.

Last month, Obama wrote to Booker that he had reserved space near the front of the inaugural crowd for the retired Boeing Co. engineer because "he said he was standing on the shoulders of the Tuskegee Airmen," said Booker, whispering hoarsely.
MLK was a young man who was fired up and ready to go. The establishment was doing incremental ism and decided to upbraid the upstart, not for the last time, on what really mattered - patience. King responded with a book on Why We Can't Wait. barack Obama picked up King's message on the fierce urgency of now and the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.

Stevie Wonder put forth his patriot's soul, treasure and time and determination towards finally getting a King holiday in 1986 eighteen years after King's assassination. It is fitting that the bridge is music from Stevie that thrilled a campaign at a Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa six weeks before a fateful caucus at the end of an astounding speech from Barack Obama. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, he's Ours now as a president in less than 36 hours and all he is seeking to have all serve equally.

Double Pulitzer Prize winner for biographical portrayals of Martin Luther King Jr., Taylor Branch has written the trilogy for eternal reverence and reference.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963 Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963 - 1965 At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968

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