Progressive Revival

Bedtime Stories


Last night’s bedtime story for my two little boys was about Mother Rosa Parks. A few nights ago we read and talked about Dr. King.


On Monday morning, MLK Day, I will do what I have been doing for over 15 years… it is the only day of the year my wife would allow such a tradition.


Awaking early, I fire up the CD player, turn up the volume, hit play and Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech reverberates off the walls of our house until everyone is awake and downstairs listening to the speech and me talk about attending my native Mississippi county’s NAACP Freedom Banquets with my father and the waning remnants of the Jim Crow during my youthful 1970’s.


My boys have come to embody, literally personify, the meaning of change and hope for me. They listen to stories of separate but not equal old movie houses, health clinic waiting rooms and restrooms as though I came from another planet. They cannot fathom their Turtle Park playground cut off from their African American little friends.


“Daddy, how would I play with Ethan?” one asked me this year about his sweet friend of color.


“That is what I am telling you,” I say, “You have the blessing of having any friend, knowing any person, experiencing your whole city (nation) and skin color just reminds us of God’s rainbow and promise that the world will never be destroyed again by floods of hate.” (Yes, I know, any theologians reading this. I take great liberty with the rainbow, but my boys are 6 and 4, respectively. They get it.)


Color Blind


The change I lived through in the 1970’s and 80’s is the reality my children live in, today. That makes change incarnate for me. It makes me deeply thankful. It makes me smile.


It also let’s me tell my boys how they will see injustice, we have not attained perfection, and hurting people in their lives. And they can stand on the shoulders of Mother Parks, Dr. King and thousands of others who put their hope in action and bring their change to their generation, for their world.


This approaching MLK Day brings with it the inauguration of a new President for our good nation. Barack Obama will soon be sworn in. My boys know more about him and his family than one would think… where they are from, their enjoyment of basketball, where the Obama children go to school and on and on.


The whole concept that Barack Obama could not be President simply because he is black does not even resonate in their little brains.


Can you imagine an America where such concepts do not exist? Dr. King and Mother Parks did.


A new President will soon forever expand our composite of Presidents.


Little children all over the nation will develop into adults who were led into the future by an African American, or, without diminishing ethnic heritage, should I just say, who were led by just another American like Washington, Lincoln, JFK or Clinton.


Color blind!


Grace Notes


Senator Clinton often refers to ‘grace notes’ that are experienced through life. She is talking about those moments that touch the soul, when something special and soul shattering is experienced… something that calls us to understanding, feeling and action.


I look forward to seeing my boys experience the ‘grace notes’ of their lives. I will share with them this week some of mine.


My Grace Note


Several years ago I was running a congressional race down south. It was horrible. We were out of money, there was little cooperation internally and externally. Our opposition was drowning us with spending on television ads.


It was so bad I decided to get out… not just get out of that particular campaign but of the profession. I was ready to hang it up and find another career.


My first son was an infant, it was a Friday and I was already planning on flying to DC for the weekend to be with my wife and new baby.


I just would not return.


I was numb by the time I arrived at the airport in Atlanta. Getting through security did not help. As I walked to my gate I realized a celebrity must be nearby because people were gathering around someone. I could see flashes from cameras.


As I approached I heard, “Son, this is your Congressman.”


And I heard, “Sir, would you mind taking a photo with my daughter?”


The celebrity: United States Congressman John Lewis.


The audience: White Southerners (I know Southern voices), mostly my age (I know slightly graying hair). Many with children.


So here I was watching the sons and daughters of the South… those of a generation who remember the remnants of Jim Crow and who had family and friends who grew up prior to the Civil Rights Movement. I know the things they have heard in their communities. I know the things they were told, by some, as children.


But here they were introducing their children to John Lewis, having photos taken and getting autographs.


And then one white gentleman stuck out his hand to Congressman Lewis and said, “Thank you, sir, for what you did for my family.”


John Lewis crossed a bridge and was beaten with baseball bats for it. John Lewis was imprisoned for saying we should all be treated equally, because, well, because we are equal. John Lewis was spat upon and reviled.


Me? Well I had a bad week in a campaign office. And I was ready to quit. No baseball bats, no spitting, no imprisonment. Nope, I just had a frustrating week.


I returned to DC, saw my wife and new baby and returned to that campaign and gave it my best. We did not win the race. We came close. But, I have helped many people of good will win campaigns since. I did not quit.


Now that, folks, is a ‘grace note.’




We are blessed for the churches and clergy who led the Civil Rights Movement.


We are blessed for those ladies who first gathered at Alabama State to take action in support of Mother Parks. The first thing they did: Join hands in prayer.


We are blessed Reverend King shared his dream with us.


We are blessed Congressman John Lewis never quit.


We are blessed the children of today will see just another American become President on Tuesday.


My march to the future involves the celebration of an African American becoming President. My boys march into their lives involves an inaugural children’s concert and interests in the White House pet. Change!


What are your ‘grace notes?’



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