Saturday, 8 November 2008

Saturday Photo: Forty-Five Years after the March on Washington

After much searching last Wednesday, I found the button I bought in Washington August 28, 1963. It was in the bottom of the drawer where I'd put it for safe-keeping, and I took it out and wore it with pleasure--a little chagrin-- the day after Barack Obama was elected president of the USA.

"There's a story behind it," several people commented, and indeed there is. In August 1963 I was at the National Student Association convention in Bloomington, Indiana. As the editor-elect of the student newspaper at Berkeley, my way was paid that far, and when a friend and I discovered we could hitch a ride to Washington and the march on a bus leaving from an African American church in Indianapolis, we jumped at the chance.

It was an eye-opening trip and an amazing day whose story has been told many times before--hundreds of thousands of people of all races and ethnic background gathered together to demand long overdue change. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech capped it all.

But it was also an extremely hot afternoon, and the sound system wasn't terrific. About 3 p.m. my friend and I decided to call another friend who was interning for our Congressman. "Come on by," Mike said, so we went over to the Capital buildings where he gave us a guided tour through the corridors of power and into the galleries of the House and Senate where business was continuing as if nothing was happening outside. I'll never forget the sight of the nearly empty Senate chamber, where one long-forgotten Senator was droning on while history was being elsewhere.

What I won't remember, however, was how electrifying Rev. King's speech was and how the crowd reacted. That's because we missed it...

This week part of King's dream was realized, and it was with great pride that I did my little bit. Maybe I've learned something over all those years: stick around and work, if you want to make a difference.

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