Monday, January 16, 2017

Humbled, contrite and hopeful

It's an icy morning, rain still falling, and I may not venture out. It's warm and dry here --- a good time and place to meditate on the legacy and example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to stand humbled and contrite before the black experience in America.

I was nearing the end of that long summer before my high school graduation  year when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.  I had never exchanged more than a word or two with a person of color.

When Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10, 1964, I was in my freshman year at the University of Iowa, a progressive island in a sea of corn-fed bucolia, and horizons were beginning to widen.

When Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, I was approaching graduation again, facing the draft and Vietnam.

Here are a few of the words Dr. King spoke that day nearly 50 years ago, on the eve of his death. 

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

We've traveled a ways toward that promise land as the years have passed, but the road remains long, filled with twists and turns, and difficult days remain, especially now. I'm grateful that we have the light and example of Dr. King's life to follow. In that there is hope.

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