I have always felt incredibly fortunate to have been born in the 1960s. It was such a significant and pivotal time of transformation in our country. I was blessed because my parents were committed to teaching the importance of being informed and well-versed in our history, and our government, training us to become good citizens and productive members of society.
My brother Greg and I were aware of their views on certain topics and issues, but my mom and dad never forced their beliefs upon us. They guided us by taking us to Sunday school and church every week. They modeled appropriate behavior, and encouraged us to always pursue our dreams and be the best we could be. As far as political views went, they let us choose our own paths.
I remember once when Greg was in the second grade and I was in kindergarten, we attended (with our parents), a rally for Hubert Humphrey on the SFA campus. This was leading up to the election of 1968 and Humphrey was seeking the democratic nomination for the presidency.
I have always believed my brother was the prototype for the character, Alex P. Keaton on “Family Ties.” Like, Alex, his conservatism began at a very young age. Unbeknownst to my parents, before leaving for this political gathering, Greg had attached a “Nixon Now” button to the inside of his jacket. I’m not sure if he ever flashed it at anyone, but we still laugh about this today. As an adult, I appreciate the boldness of this act, and that at the age of seven, Greg was already politically active.
As I think back on my life, I always measure my journey against that of my country–the historical, cultural, and personal events that have shaped me. It seems whenever I reflect on my younger years, I automatically hear Simon & Garfunkel singing “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,”–the harmony of their voices blending like the harmony they hoped for in our country.
Numerous times, I have listened to my mother relive the story about the day Kennedy was assassinated. It was November 22, 1963 and I was a little over seven months old. It was the day before my brother’s third birthday, and Mom was baking his birthday cake as the television was on in the background. Happy thoughts of birthdays and Thanksgiving were interrupted with the news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.
My mother was so shocked and stunned, that the cake burned. She started over, and as the news of Kennedy’s death was announced, the second cake fell. Her third attempt at baking the cake was successful, and in a way, symbolized that life would go on. Although I was too young to realize it at the time, I believe in many ways, November 22, 1963 marked the day when our country’s innocence was lost.
So, what in the world does any of this have to do with mountains, moments, memories and lunch with MLK? The other day I was talking to my mother on the phone, and somehow the subject of Martin Luther King, Jr. came up. I can’t remember what brought us to this topic, but the main idea of our conversation was the charismatic, beautiful words that Dr. King shared during his all too brief time on earth. His speeches were usually a call to action, in a non-violent way, and were always laced with the message of hope. Hope that freedom would ring for every American.
During this brief, everyday conversation with my mom, in between tidbits about the SFA basketball team, my son’s dog Ace, talk of children and grandchildren, I learned something about my father that I never knew–he had the opportunity to be in the audience and hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak several times.
For some reason our phone call was cut short. Thankfully, my mind made a memo to finish this conversation at a later date. For several days, before I had the opportunity to ask questions about this momentous occasion, I imagined my dad sitting in the audience during his lunch-hour, listening to one of the greatest speakers and leaders of all time.
As I learned a few days ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the Denver Area Council of Churches of Christ during Holy Week in 1962. At that time, my father worked for the Department of Agriculture, and he and my mother, and Greg, lived in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. The services were held daily, and my dad attended the lunch-hour gatherings and heard Dr. King speak several times.
My father was constantly learning. He was a student of life. He broadened his mind and perspective every day, and in all things looked for the greater good. He was a man of few words, but when he did speak, his words were valuable. They always made a point, imparted knowledge, or were used in a way to make the listener feel better.
Dad was kind, and smart, and thoughtful, and quiet. He read every day and prayed every night. He lived in a way that we all should live. He had values and standards, and loved his family and his country. These are things I know about my dad, but there are so many other things I don’t know.
Twenty-seven years after my father’s death, I learned something new about him. This story, which had not been previously shared with me, briefly brought my father back to life. It made me look at him in a new and different way. At the time he heard Martin Luther King, Jr., he was twenty-seven years old. Suddenly, that seems so young.
My father obviously cared deeply about his country, his faith, and his family. He believed in sitting down with people from diverse backgrounds and breaking bread with them. He believed in finding common ground in a civil, and productive manner.
For the remainder of my life, whenever I hear Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech which was given in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, my thoughts will go to Dad. I will think of a man, who in 1962, sat in a church in the “snow-capped Rockies of Colorado,” and during lunch on a several random days in April, shared in the hopes and promises of the beginning of the dream.
As our country still struggles with issues of inequality and injustice, I am forever grateful that I was taught at an early age that we should not judge others by the color of their skin, but rather by the content of their character. I’m thankful for a mother who is an incredible source of wisdom and knowledge, and for a brother who continues to embrace his beliefs, and always has a great story to tell.
Every single day, I’m thankful for the privilege and honor to live in this great country–a country where men and women have fought and died to keep us free. I hope and pray my husband and I have given our sons the same hope, promise, and desire to be proud Americans, and to never take our freedoms for granted.
As we continue to struggle and fight for things that need to be changed, and for others that need to stay the same, I want to challenge myself to stay positive and refuse to be jaded, or become apathetic.
As I climb toward that dream and the top of the mountain, I hope my eyes remain clear and that I’m led to do my part to help make our country stronger. I understand that I can’t change all the ills of society, but I can change my heart. When we begin to see with our heart, our destination becomes clearer, and that’s the first step in the journey to becoming truly free.
We may not all get to the mountaintop at the same time, but I pray that the steps we take together make us stronger and more united in becoming better as individuals and as a country. I know this is what my father dreamed about when he lunched with Martin– a world filled with mountains to climb, moments to share, and special memories of those who have gone before us.
And since he’s no longer here, the torch has been passed to me, and my responsibility is greater.
Let freedom ring for everyone, and let it begin with me.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll share the blog with your friends.
Until next time…