Around this time every year, I find myself wondering what the better end of the deal would’ve been – to grow up seeing history in the making, or to grow up in its shadow. I’ve often said I wish I could have been around, and old enough, to see the first lunar landing and to really “get” it, instead of having it be something that had happened and had already made it into the history books. And today I find myself wondering the same thing about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Would I have “gotten it” if I had been alive to see the man and his movement in action?
This is one case where I think it’s better to have been born afterward. Granted, I was born in the early 70s, so it’s not like it was that long afterward, but to have grown up in the shadow of what Dr. King accomplished, to have grown up when those ripples were making their way through society and changing society in their wake, is perhaps the more valuable experience. I appreciate the struggle of those who fought and gave everything they had – including their lives – to make those changes (and while I’m about as white as they get, I don’t think one has to be of any particular ethnicity to appreciate that struggle – to see how people were treated under segregation, I’d think one only needs to be human). But I also appreciate growing up in a world where those changes were making themselves known. And so I thank Dr. King for being a part of the history behind me, for that made such a difference in the world ahead of me.
And yet there’s still so much yet to be done. So it’s only fair to thank him for pointing the way as well.