My granddad, who died at the age of 96, once told me: “When I was very young, I traveled from Missouri to Colorado was in a covered wagon. Now I’ve lived to see a man walk on the moon. No one should live that long.”
I hope the day comes when I rival my granddad’s full life. But I will have to admit, taking stock of our Civil Rights timeline gave me pause.
What my kids take for granted as “always was,” happened in my lifetime. How can that be?
December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, because she, a black woman, refused to stand and give up her seat to a white person.
February 1, 1960: Four students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro begin a sit-in at Woolworth’s Drug Store’s whites-only lunch counter.
October 1, 1962: James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. He was escorted in by U.S. marshals on the order of President John F. Kennedy. That’s because the first time he tried to enroll, the governor himself blocked the way.
August 28, 1963: The Civil Rights March on Washington, the largest civil rights demonstration in American history, defined forever by Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
July 2, 1964: President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
April 4, 1968: Baptist pastor/Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee. A thousand other voices rose up to echo his words and carry on the struggle.
November 5, 2008: Barack Obama elected the 44th president of the United States.
The day after the historic election, my email filled with messages from around the world. People we knew in Africa… in India… in Brazil… in Switzerland… in England… in Australia… All emailing to say, “Wow! We never thought it would happen!”
Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents. Black, white, brown, pink… Take a moment to grab the hand of someone unlike yourself and say, “We have a long way to go, America, but look how far we’ve come!”
Everyone should live so long!
We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow