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Shots Rang Out in the Memphis Sky

Martin Luther King - CEO Blog

1968. Most DLCers weren’t even born yet. I was three. We talk about the constant upheaval in America and globally in 2017 and 2018 as being unprecedented, but it really isn’t. Before our present day, there was 1968. 

A year that started in January and February with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and modern technology and Walter Cronkite brought the futility of the war in Southeast Asia into every American Living Room. It was so terrible that 50 years ago on March 31, 1968, President Johnson would announce that he would not run for reelection even though he had won the White House in 1964 in the greatest landslide in American history. The leader of America who had launched the Great Society and codified civil rights into law was a defeated man. 

It was a year that would see violent riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago with the police and national guard called out to stop the protests. The Democratic Party would split in two at the convention and stories would be written about its demise (sound familiar today?). Governor George Wallace, a white racist segregationist, would carry the Deep South in the general election as a third-party candidate. America was seen as broken and in despair.  

That despair was exponentially multiplied on April 4th in Memphis, Tennessee. Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Four Irishmen from Dublin summed it up well:

            One man come in the name of love

            One man come and go

            One man come he to justify

            One man to overthrow

 

            Early morning, April four

            Shot rings out in the Memphis sky

            Free at last, they took your life

            They could not take your pride

 

            In the name of love

            What more in the name of love

            In the name of love

            What more in the name of love

 

Named for a revolutionary priest who split the Roman Catholic Church and started the Reformation, Dr. King is one of the most important if not the most important American of the 20th Century. A student of Gandhi’s non-violent protest movement, Dr. King had emerged as a beacon of hope in America.His 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech remains one of the two greatest pieces of oratory in American History (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is the other). He was the face and leader of the long overdue civil rights movement in America. And 50 years ago today, his life was cut brutally short by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis. He was 39 years old.

His accomplishments in his too short life were simply extraordinary. He organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott when he was 26. He was named the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at 28, led thenon-violent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, the same year he gave “I Have A Dream” at 34, and won the Nobel Peace Prize at 35. If he had lived, he would be 89 today. 

Today we remember Dr. King and his extraordinary legacy. America is a markedly better place because of Dr. King’s work. And his legacy lives on in real life. Perhaps you saw his nine-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, speak in Washington DC at the recent #marchforourlives. She took the stage with a young woman from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Jaclyn Corin. While Dr. King is gone, there are young people in America to take up his mantle. While we might be sad today on the 50th anniversary of his death, the actions of his granddaughter and amazing young men and women from MSD give me great hope for our future.  

Join me today as we remember Dr. King and his legacy.

In the name of love,

 

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