He sat at the edge of the sofa, glazed eyes fixed on the TV screen, tears streaming down his face. My brother and I watched silently with our father as the body of Martin Luther King was pulled by two mules on a mule cart. Thousands of people marched in tandem. My father wept, not ashamed to cry in front of us. “Why did they kill him?” we asked.
“Come close,” Dad said. “Never judge anyone by the color of their skin. There are good and bad people in every group,” he said. “Look to the person, and not the group they belong to. Consider everyone as an individual – an equal – remember that.”
This would be one of the many life lessons I learned from my Italian father. Like King, Dad sought fairness for all in a time when it was not a popular thing to do. Similar to Dr. King’s life cut short at the hand of an assassin, Dad’s life was cut short in a car accident. I would only realize the meaningful extent of both of their legacy’s through their deaths.
Today, I can see my father on the sofa and the images of King’s funeral procession as if it was yesterday. I take comfort knowing the lessons I learned from both that year are handed down to each new group of students that enter my classroom.
The significance of today – the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the historical second inauguration of President Obama will be meaningful to some though not all. We have come a long way but the road is long and we still have a way to go.
For the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech illustrated…