Consciously thinking about and then recording how I am spending my 10,000 days is not as easy as I had hoped it would be. Some days are full and well spent. Others are just days. And I am OK with that, to think that they would all be great or fulfilling or even full is over reaching. But yesterday was a day well spent.
Yesterday we honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King and the 50th anniversary of his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
I am fortunate to work with a team of people who’s creativity and drive is energizing. Yesterday I stood with a few of these people in Times Square and together we watched Dr. King’s speech broadcast in its entirety from Bank of America’s billboard. The second it started we forgot about all the work that led up to that moment and we just watched. It was pouring rain. There were 100s of people standing there, watching. More came. It was emotional and humbling. I didn’t want to be anywhere else but right there, in the rain, listening to a message that was 50 years old but is truly timeless.
President Obama spoke just before Dr. King’s speech played. I was standing next to a woman who was actively listening to every word in the president’s address. When the president mentioned James Chaney, the civil rights worker from Mississippi who was killed in 1964, she picked up her phone. “Did you hear that!” she said. “He said his name!” “Are you watching?” She got off the phone and turned to me. “That was James Chaney’s sister” she said, she’s watching at home. She gave me a hug. We were all connected to each other in the moment. Incredible.
By rebroadcasting MLK’s speech, everyone who watched was given a gift. To remember. To be present for 18 minutes and listen. To be moved by a stranger standing next to you. To take his words with you as you moved into your day and on to the next thing.
And for me, it was a day well spent.
What follows is an excerpt from President Obama’s remarks at the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
“To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.
But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance.
And we’ll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. “
Thank you for reading.