Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50th anniversary of the March on Washington and "I Have a Dream" Speech

I was 15 when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech in the August 28, 1963 March on Washington--one of the truly great speeches in American history. I was a sophomore at St. Joe's High School. There were no black students in the student body of 2000 boys (at least that is my memory). There were no black people in Euclid (as far as I knew), a city at that time of 80,000. The only black people I knew were our garbage collectors in Euclid and the janitor, Rev. Bill Love (we called him "Bill") at St. William's School on East 260th Street.

Euclid now might be half black; the public schools in Euclid are majority black. And we have a black President of the United States.

Thirty years ago, August 28, 1983, I and my wife Linda were in the 20th anniversary March on Washington. It was stiflingly hot, 95 to 100 degrees, and we were in a great sea of people. We had come to Washington with a group from Berea College (which included Anne Weatherford, Loren Kramer, et al.). I remember watching the crowd--and then, incredibly, seeing my old Cincinnati friend Peggy Scherer in the crowd, marching with a group from the New York Catholic Worker, carrying a banner. What astonishing luck to find Peggy in the great crowd.

I'll never forget that March, hearing a recording of Dr. King's original speech, hearing Peter, Paul, and Mary sing as they had done 20 years earlier.

I wanted to be there, to be part of this great and messy movement for equality.

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