Monday, January 17, 2011

The Words of Dr. King for a New Generation of Listeners

As we walked into Washington National Cathedral today for the annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was immediately struck by two thoughts. One, the crowd was absolutely enormous, the type of gathering that shows that are many, many people in this city - in this world, in fact (as we were to discover, the congregation included visitors from Brazil, Italy, Australia, and the Netherlands, among many other places) - who are still concerned about the work left unfinished at the time of Dr. King's death.

The other thought which struck me was that, fifty years, ago, this type of gathering would have been rare. A service where blacks and whites could sit together, laugh together, smile together, sing together, and pray together ... a rare event indeed.

Thank God the world into which I was born, and in which my daughters are being raised, is better. Not perfect, mind you, but much better.

Thanks to Dr. King and many others like him.

We were all seated, the prelude ended, and Dean Lloyd took to the stage. A few brief words of welcome, silence ... and then, the voice. Echoing off the walls and vaults of the massive cathedral in a moment that, each time I experience it, brings me to tears ... the voice. The voice of Dr. King, recorded in the pulpit of that cathedral just days before his death, on March 31, 1968. The deliberate, passionate, Spirit-filled, God-driven voice, preaching on the topic, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". The voice that brought the thousands in attendance this afternoon to a hard stop ... absolute silence ... and, despite my own eyes being closed, I'm certain brought more tears to many eyes.

And these are the words that echoed off of those walls, the words that moved me today, the words that forever tie Dr. King to that sacred space:

"We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured."

We had to leave before the end of the event, before the singing of "We Shall Overcome". But we were there, and more importantly, our daughters were there. No, they may not remember the songs of the Children's Chorus of Washington, or the words of the Interfaith Voices, or the dance of CityDance Early Arts. I do hope, however, that they remember that they were there ... that they heard the voice of Dr. King ... that they saw a community united in tribute to this great man ... that they prayed for justice and peace.

Above all, I hope that they absorb and revisit these moments, these lessons, so that they - and their generation - can continue to overcome.

1 comment:

rdl said...

great post & what a great thing to bring your daughters to.