Will Your Relatives Be Proud of You?
I watched the observance of the 50th anniversary of the Selma march. Interestingly, I noticed something that startled me for a bit. Most of the newscasters, actually all of them, referred to what took place 50-years ago almost as ancient American history.
It is also noteworthy that many of the people who came to Selma for the celebration either were not alive in 1965 or were too young to remember the first march. There were some notable exceptions like Rep. John Lewis. He is lucky that some police officer did not kill him with a billy club during the march. Several others were there in Selma fifty years ago including a woman in a wheelchair holding President Obama's hand as she was pushed across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Looking back upon the past 50-years, I reflected upon the legacy issue from a different perspective than most. How would you like to be a relative of Edmund Pettus for whom the bridge was named? Pettus fought in the Civil War on the side of the South. For Pettus, nothing was wrong with slavery. If I were his relative, that would embarrass me. To make matters worse, after the Civil War, he became the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. Talk about a legacy.
While researching the Selma march, I came across the archetype of mindless racism...George Wallace. Back in the 60s, Wallace was the symbol of all that was wrong with segregation and the South. He was the one responsible for Bloody Sunday, which was merely the tip of the iceberg of racism in Alabama and the South in general. Wallace was an angry bigot who preached to many other white bigots.
However, I also found material on one of Wallace's relatives, his daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy. Ms. Kennedy talked about waking up to the reality of being the daughter of George Wallace midway through her life. She expressed in an interview what that meant to her personally.
Interestingly, Wallace in the 70s began to recant on his racist statements claiming that the media and the public misunderstood his views on race in general. Well, Wallace said, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!" I do not know how that could be misunderstood. You listen; what do you think?
Regardless, he came to terms with his racist legacy before he died. Interestingly, Ms. Kennedy said that she voted for Barack Obama for president. She certainly has seen the light. Since then, she has worked for racial equity and justice. She will leave a legitimate legacy to her family and friends.
When I am teaching, I would often ask students to list certain things when we are discussing various issues. It is a means to help them to think. Therefore, let me try my technique with my readers. Think about five politicians with whom you would like to be related. Here are mine: Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis, and Barack Obama.
Now, who are your five politicians with whom you would not like to be related? Here is my list: Sarah Palin, Ted Cruse, Michele Bachman, Donald Trump, and Mike Huckabee. Now, whether or not we are related to any politician or not, you are leaving a legacy to your family and friends. Think about whom you admire and with whom you are proud. Then follow in their footsteps.
This is a video of John Lewis' speech on the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma.
This is a video of President Obama's speech on the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma.
PS The day after the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, I was writing the first draft of this essay about leaving a legacy. In the midst of writing it, I get an email from Ayanna, my granddaughter, who is in college. This is what she wrote:
It's International Women's Day today. I saw this, and it made me think of you.
Attached to the email is this photo....
Ayanna has heard about my wanting to interview Aung San Suu Kyi for nearly a decade. In addition, I have written dozens of articles about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I cannot think of a women that rivals her for sheer guts and determination to bring human rights to all the people of Myanmar...including women.
I was in Myanmar just over a year ago for a month of travel and research. I had tried to contact Aung San Suu Kyi so that I could get an interview with her. I am certain that sometime in the near future, I will be able to meet with her. In the meantime, if anyone has a means of contacting her, let me know. You could also send her a link to the Wolverton Mountain website.
This is Ayanna with Jack and Owen, my other two grandchildren. If Aung San Suu Kyi returns to the States soon for a visit, they would love to meet her. Talk about the legacy that these three will have to tell their friends during their lives.
Finally, while in Myanmar at a protest rally in Sule Pagoda, I heard the speakers talking in Burmese about human rights. However, I also heard in English, Joan Baez singing We Shall Overcome in my head. America and Myanmar will overcome someday...hopefully soon.
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