Watching some of the speeches on the National Mall yesterday reaffirmed to me that our social and political future is heading in the right direction, if at an agonizingly slow pace. Martin Luther King can be thanked for this. When he gave that speech, he wisely copyrighted it so that it could not be used willy-nilly. So, in doing this he recognized the importance of the moment and his place in history. I recall that there was a synergism between Martin Luther King’s movement and popular music of Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter-Paul-and-Mary, and the jazz of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and Willy-the-Lion Smith. I had Dylan’s first album with “Hard Rains” and “Corina, Corina” and went to the Newport Folk Festival that year, 1963. That same year I had the first album from The Mothers of Invention also and I heard the Beatles for the first time as I drove into Darien from Rowayton in my newly purchased 1957 four-seat, six cylinder Austin Healey… She Loves Me Yah,Yah,Yah was a completely new sound. This was the year that I turned 20 on September 8th when I started to head in the right direction (in retrospect), albiet at a slow pace with only a few imperceptable pieces of evidence. Eight years later I would roll into East Baltimore to begin six years at Johns Hopkins. The charred ruins around Hopkins Hospital were still there from the 1968 race riots.
In the last few days I have heard a number of leaders of the civil rights movement say that change is generational thereby hinting that the generation to come will have dramatically shifted views about race relations and political direction. One young white commentor referring to a white extreme right-wing racist politician, who had just gotten through bashing Obama as a Muslim who hates white people, spoke about that generation now in their 60s dying off. Needless to say, I felt a little insulted because I am two weeks from becoming 70. Writing off people in their 60s and 70s as too near death to count does not appeal to me. Some of us will march on like Diane Wilkinson Trefethen who is still competing in 50-100 mile horse races and winning (also Judy Beatty, Pat Lauder, and others), while those other people (the racists) will eventually fade into their wheel chairs with mounting dementia for one final decade. While we hear about how often people are living well into their wonderful 80s and 90s, I don’t relish that but aging is inescapeable.
I feel more sorry for those in the 15 to 20 years pre-retirement generation whose wages have not kept pace with inflation who have insufficient or no funds put aside for retirement. They watch as the wealthy get richer and a rare few win the lottery. After 45 years of life these people have little or no options but to stagger on into oblivion. Some would say it’s their own fault.
Some of us were lucky to have good mentors. In January of 1964, I took time off from college and started my first real job in Stamford. That began almost 50 continuous years of employment which will not end on September 8th … knock-on-wood. US Open Tennis is starting which takes me back to the early 60s when I often went to the Open at Forest Hills. Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were drug-free at least, Casey Stengel was managing the Mets, and Roberto Clemente started to impress me. College and pro-football also starts taking me back to Broadway Joe on the rise and the demise of Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall and the Colts. And UConn basketball will soon follow taking me back to the days of Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.
But more importantly, President Obama will show a youthful new generation that they can be proud to have a black President … and this is good! Because of this passing, hopefully more people will recognize the importance of sharing and providing equal opportunity so that all can have a productive, fulfilling quality of life.Read More