Monday was Martin Luther King Jr.’s special day, and as I reflect on his life, I realize my life has been enriched immeasurably through the presence of African Americans as a part of it. The trajectory has been long from my childhood friends, Norman and Sonny, to many who impact my life today and do so in differing ways from encouraging me to giving me advice.
In the desperate times in which we now live, I turn to the words of Dr. King as I seek comfort. He indicated that the measure of each of us is “where we stand at times of challenge and controversy” and that “We must learn to stand together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
And King was smart enough to know and proclaim, “Unity has never meant uniformity.”
We face tremendous challenges in the next months and years, and I feel certain that you can add to the issues I’m considering this morning as I sit at my computer:
· First and foremost must be life itself whether lives are taken by angry crowds, a renegade law enforcement officer, a drug deal gone bad, drug overdoses, suicide, or COVID-19.
· We must make economic decisions as we look at high rates of unemployment and determine how to help those families put food on the table and a roof over their heads. We need to strategize on ways in which we can bring jobs to those living in areas where the major source of employment is no longer viable. Further, we must examine tax laws and loopholes. Also, we must find a balance between saving our natural environment and restoring it to health versus providing employment by harvesting natural resources.
· A third issue is individual rights, states’ rights, and federal laws. We are a nation of fiercely independent folks, and we also expect speed when we determine that we want something done. This is all complicated by a “wild west history,” the Second Amendment, ongoing differences in the ways in which states differ on laws from abortion to capital punishment and everything in between. At one point, each of us must concede that compromise is essential, that diversity of states plays out in laws, majority religions, and norms. Within those states are additional varying positions.
· As an educator, I am well aware of the power of education to change lives of our citizenry in positive ways. Public versus private? College for most? Education for those with special needs?
· Immigration always comes to the front of any political conversation. With that discussion comes the questions of immigration from which countries, under what conditions in terms of numbers, and the standards to be applied to those wishing to immigrate. And what of those who are already here? And what are our responsibilities for the children separated from their parents/relatives in recent years?
· A voting system that inspires trust from the majority of Americans. The long history of voting in America is rife with problems. We examine American history where only property owners were allowed to cast ballots, women could not vote, and certain people were counted as only three-fifths of a person. Should we suppress voting by making it difficult? With technology, can we insure honesty? And we’ve all heard the stories about buying votes in the U.S whether it’s with a portion of liquor or a financial donations.
· An aging population. How do we work to provide for a meshing of the elderly with the young and those of middle age while giving opportunities for the growth and development of the young in respectful ways that reflect the diversity of the country? How do we continue to acknowledge the important roles women can and do play as well as the roles that white men have played and should continue to play but in different capacities from the past in which they dominated?
· The two major U.S. political parties must assess and reassess to determine where they’ve been and where they are going and what they want to be that’s valuable, honorable, inclusive.
· Globalism refuses to be ignored, and we must explore ways to keep our nation strong even as we cooperate and build alliances with other countries.
· Technology deserves a category of its own although it is so dominant now that it is a critical part of all issues. Technology, however, can be a force for good or a force for evil, and we must use human wisdom to decrease its potential for evil.
Your list can differ from mine, but I ask you to think on some of the issues I have surfaced and add your own.
I’ve been to the site of the murder of Dr. King in Memphis, and my visit that day is imprinted on my consciousness with a deep sadness. In spite of our history that is replete with missteps, I’m proud to be an American, but the lens through which I view us needs correction. I’ve always been an idealist, seeing potential for greatness; however, I’m also the pragmatist who realizes our greatness as a country depends upon realization that honor, collaboration and COMPROMISE are essential as we address the myriad issues that are a part of our lives in the 21st century.