A trip to the mountaintop...45 years ago tonight
1968 was a dreadful year, and April 4th was particularly awful.
It was the night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder. A single shot ended the life of the civil rights leader, triggered days of violence in several U.S. cities and set the tone for what would be a tumultuous, depressing summer that left those of us alive back then wondering what was going on in our country. I was all of 11 years old but even at that early point in my life, it was obvious things weren't right. A kid could read that on the faces of his parents.
The night before King died, he gave what would be his final public speech, a talk in support of striking Memphis garbage collectors. What was just another municipal strike became a personal mission for King who saw the job action as a battle in the war for economic and social justice. He almost didn't come back to Memphis after a demonstration turned violent the month before but, despite the suggestions of some that he stay away, King returned.
We've all seen the end of the April 3rd speech, with King foreshadowing his own end as he references longevity having its place. Read the whole thing, though, to get an idea of his mindset in his final hours, his passion for the cause and his eloquence in stating the case for what is right and fair.
45 years, and the words still ring true today. 45 years, and there are still causes to which they apply.
1968 was, indeed, a dreadful year. We lost a lot. We learned a little. And, we keep the words of Dr. King close as we remember his life on this, the anniversary of his final public talk.