O Me of Little Faith

My daughter, Ellie, was born eight years ago today, on April 4, 2000. My wife went into labor around 5 a.m. that morning, and on the way to the hospital, guess what song kept running through my head?

It was U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which famously ends with a verse about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Early morning, April four
Shots ring out in the Memphis sky.

Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.

I’m not sure I ever expected, on the way to the birth of my first child, to be thinking about the death of one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century. Armchair psychologists might have a field day with that one, but that’s what happened along the five miles between our home and the hospital. One thinks profound thoughts at times like that, especially while running pre-dawn red lights. (In my defense, it was early, I was nervous, and I had a really really good reason.)

Ellie turns 8 today, and she’s studied MLK in school for the last couple of years. Every year since she’s been old enough, I’ve tried to remind her that her special day is also the anniversary of his death in 1968. Not in a weird Debbie Downer kind of way, though. It’s not like I woke her up this morning and said, “Happy Birthday, Ellie! It’s a great day for you, but first let’s talk about a racially motivated assassination that happened four decades ago.”

That would just be mean.

But I think it’s a good thing to remember, and a good way to talk about history and racism and the importance of doing good. And shared special days are good teachable moments. I always remember today is the anniversary of his death, because of Ellie. (And partially because of U2.)

I want her to remember as well.


Here’s an NPR story about King’s final speech, given the night before his death. I’ve heard most of it before, but I’m always surprised to remember it was on behalf of striking sanititation workers.

Here are a series of interviews in Time Magazine with the remaining survivors (Rev. Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Rev. Billy Kyles, and Rev. James Bevel) who witnessed the assassination.

And here’s a picture of Ellie. Happy birthday, Ellie!

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