Monday, January 21, 2008

Musings on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Looking South along Broadway. Sunday at 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an official National Holiday signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1983 and first observed in 1986. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000, to be observed on the third Monday of January each year. Dr. King’s birthday was the 15th of January. Had he lived a full long life, he would have been 79 years old. Instead he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, one hundred and three years and ten days after the death of Lincoln, at the age of 38.

It is amazing from this vantage point to consider how young the man was at the time of his death, and the enormity of his impact on Americans and on the 20th and now the 21st century. There is no one I can think of in modern times who demonstrated such powerful leadership at such a young age.

This year, four decades after Dr. King’s murder, and for the first time since then, a young African-American man is a serious contender in the race for the Presidency in 2008. Barack Obama’s campaign has not only harkened memories of Dr. King (and of John F. Kennedy) but has demonstrated the profound changes that have taken place in the consciousness of many millions of Americans, changes first alluded to in Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream…” speech.

The esteemed Bill Moyers, who was a Presidential assistant to Lyndon Johnson during the heady days of the Civil Rights Movement and the precedent-setting Civil Rights legislation that Johnson finally signed into law, recalls the relationship between those two leaders in this link.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Delivers His Most Famous Speech "I Have A Dream" August 28, 1963.
Today’s NYSD carries a Guest Diary of Ned Brown who coincidentally is working right now on the Obama campaign in South Carolina. Even more coincidentally, Brown spent last night at the Rhett House Inn in Beaufort, South Carolina which is owned by two very old close friends of this writer, Marianne and Steve Harrison. Mr. Brown, who is a New Yorker-Washingtonian has written a Guest Diary that was inspired by his family’s Southern roots, and not by his political activities. We published another of his inspired diaries on Charleston, South Carolina several days ago.

Today Ned Brown reports on his overnight stay at Mansfield Plantation, an ante-bellum rice plantation which is now a very alluring Bed & Breakfast in Georgetown, South Carolina -- a perfect spot for people who want to get away to some place quiet and beautiful and far from the cities’ noises and turbulence.

Reading the diary, and considering Brown’s actual reason for being there, I was struck by all the fantastic ironies it exemplifies so appropriately on this day. Although Dr. King did not live to see an actualization of his “dream,” we have.

I was around to hear Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, although only over the radio. It was and remains the greatest speech I ever heard because of its universality --  it raised up the hearts of not only those who supported him but everyone else as well. Although I am not personally committed to Mr. Obama’s candidacy (or anyone else’s for that matter) at this time, it is interesting to see that in many ways his orations have also inspired and raised the hearts of all kinds of Americans, young and old, many of whom are even planning to cross party lines to support and even vote for him.

There is a deep longing for leadership in America today. That to me is a reflection of what could be called the Collective Unconscious. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory remains flourishing on the power of hope.

Last year’s NYSD memorial to Dr. King on this day.

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