Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was a preacher in from Atlanta, serving as minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala. It's hard to believe, but this occurred in America some sixty years ago: Black citizens were required to ride in the back of the municipal buses (they did pay the same fare as all others), and were not allowed to shop in certain stores, dine at some restaurants, or even use public toilets or water fountains. Or Vote.
Inspired by the resistance of a hard-working seamstress named Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus, Dr King led a boycott of those buses. It took almost two years, but in the end, the buses in Montgomery were desegregated, open to all.
He went on to lead the fight to allow all citizens to vote. Again, I am writing this for the benefit of the young, who might find it hard to believe there was a time and place in this country when a man or woman of legal voting age could be denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin.
Of course, even the young can see that a political platform that damns an entire race or religious group or seeks to keep them from coming to the Land Of The Free is based on "hair-brained" foolishness.
There was an interesting article in the Washington POST the other day about the Dr King Memorial in Washington. National Park Service guide John W. McCaskill, stationed there, encounters all sorts of visitors to the monument. Some are just learning about the fight for civil rights in the US, and some are people who were there on the front lines of the fight - literally.
One day, he met Rev. C.T. Vivian. In 1965, Rev. Vivian was on the steps of the Birmingham municipal building, trying to register new voters. And a violent sheriff, one Jim Clark, stood in their way and said they could not register.
Vivian stood firm for the right to vote. Clark hit Vivian so hard that he broke his hand. As blood poured from his nose and mouth, Rev Vivian had the courage to say this to the news cameras recording this horror:
"We are willing to be beaten for democracy."
And that courage flowed from the heart of the man whom we honor today.
Please remember that, the next time that voting seems an inconvenience, or kindness to persons of a different faith or background seems to be too much trouble.