Monday, January 21, 2008

Don’t let the dream die

As an elementary school student in the 1960s I lived through turbulent times, watching local, state, national and world events from the wide-eyed perspective of childhood but also with the curiosity of a born reporter.

My natural curiosity and never-ending thirst for information, coupled with the fact that I hung out more with adults than my age group, often resulted in my being over-prepared for current events discussions in second and third grade.

Every single evening I had a front row seat for the 6 o’clock news: assassinations, riots, peace demonstrations, battlefield footage from Vietnam, tanks in the Middle East. And every evening there was lively discussion around our dinner table as the dramatic images flickered on the black and white screen across the room. I still remember the red blood even though it showed up in black on our TV.

In April 1968 I was stunned when the local news anchor said Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot.

I understood immediately that this man who had been working for peace and equal rights for all Americans had been gunned down because of his beliefs. The next day at school I was horrified when some of the kids made jokes about it (obviously repeating racial slurs that they had heard in their homes), and my heart ached when I saw the tears in the eyes of the only two black children in my class of 30.

Fast forward to 2008. It’s been 40 years since the assassination, and I’m a staff editor for a national magazine that just happened to sponsor a poetry contest for readers in recent months. Of the more than 500 entries we received, a handful did not meet the criteria of being on the topic of trucking. All of those poems except one went into the reject pile.

The one poem I saved from the reject pile came from retired trucker Scotty Foster of Troup, TX. It tells a story that I thought should be shared as our nation remembers and honors the work of Dr. King on Monday, Jan. 21.

“I Had a Dream”

by Scotty Foster

Words from Dr. King,

made so many hearts sing.

It was all such a shame,

the disrespect is the same.

Thirty plus years,

has eased a few tears,

yet the problem has steadily grown.

I’ve witnessed the birth,

of more of that kind,

knowing they’ll be reared,

with that same state of mind.

We’re all to blame,

for the notoriety and fame,

it’s as though we make ourselves blind.

No candid reflection,

can begin the dissection,

of this wizard presented to thee.

Such pain and deceit,

for the Nazi defeat,

yet it was there for all who could see.

Many summers have passed,

yet the spell he has cast,

lingers in those true of heart.

Few of us show,

that we still know.

Fewer pray for change to begin.

They still cull those unfit,

in consensus they sit,

a thoroughbred, deception, its guise.

They pander your smile,

as we swallow this guile,

re-election is seen as the prize.

Should there come a time,

when the church bells won’t chime,

most will freeze in dismay.

There’s no need for alarm,

your convictions can’t harm,

we’ll see you there someday.

Don’t dare raise your voice,

it’s a matter of choice,

they say you’re letting off steam.

That corrupt point of view,

has now slipped into you,

But once, I had a dream.