Recently, I have listened again -- with overwhelming emotion -- to King's recorded speeches, and as I recalled the violent passions that often greeted them, I wondered how the message could have sounded strange and alien to so many at the time. For there is nothing foreign about King and his dream. Although the methods were those of Gandhi, and although the underpinnings were from the prophets of Israel and the Christian church, the message itself was profoundly American. As King said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, "It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream . . . that all men are created equal."
And now at last America embraces King as one of its own heroes.
I remember Martin as a fellow classmate at Morehouse College. He was a regular fellow though he enjoyed a bit of status even then as an ordained Baptist preacher. When we would meet by chance as I returned from track practice, he would always ask how I had done. His interest was warm and genuine.
During the height of the civil rights efforts in the '60s, Martin and his brother, A. D. King, would come to New York where I was working in the Brooklyn Public Library. We'd stay up all night, talking and eating and then, come early morning, I'd see King on some early-morning television show. I was always amazed by his energy and recuperative powers. He enjoyed a good joke and had a way of injecting humor to downplay the dangerous experiences he had been through.
How will I spend the holiday? It will be a very busy work day for me and my staff. This evening, there will be a benefit concert at the Warner Theater starring Jeffrey Osborne and Jennifer Holiday. Tomorrow morning, the mayor, the D.C. Council and Del. Walter Fauntroy will lead the annual city celebration at the Convention Center. From there the mayor will lead a symbolic march to the Martin Luther King Memorial Library for the unveiling of the large King mural by Don Miller.
As a black American from the South, and as one who knew Martin, I cannot express how proud I am to have a part in these historic events. Another man who will be filled with a quiet pride is my colleague and deputy city librarian, Larry Molumby. A white American from Richmond, he was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a founder of a fair housing group and a seminary instructor who used the writings of King to teach future priests the imperative of racial justice.
On this day both of us will be going about our jobs as employees of the city, but we will be doing them with a deeply personal sense of what it means to live the dream of Martin Luther King.