Posts Tagged ‘Dr Martin Luther King’

Union Jacks on Regent Street in London

Off course you couldn’t get away from the Royal Wedding today. As a typical Brit I am usually embarrassed at displays of flag waving and patriotism but I found myself wearing my England t-shirt to work in New York and watching the ceremony while eating breakfast.

I can remember Princess Diana’s wedding while I was a teenager and in my full flush of enthusiasm for the monarchy. During my twenties I flirted with republicanism but I have now swung back to thinking it is a good idea to have a symbolic non-political head of state.

It cuts down the ego of the Prime Minister to have an audience with the monarch every week and days like today put British politicians firmly in their place. They can see they are very unlikely to regarded with the same affection and are reminded that the monarchy will be there long after they have left the stage.  Some Americans even feel the same way :

If it’s an affront to democratic sensibilities, it’s also a safeguard for democratic institutions. Better a real king, crowned and powerless, than the many pseudo-kings who have strutted (and still strut) so destructively across the modern stage. (The Dish)

As Walter Bagehot said in 1863:

A royal family sweetens politics by the seasonable addition of nice and pretty events. It introduces irrelevant facts into the business of government, but they are facts which speak to men’s bosoms and employ their thoughts. (The Spectator)

The day was also important for other reasons:

– it was the twentieth anniversary of the cyclone in Bangladesh which left 140,000 dead and 10 million homeless. This month’s National Geographic has a piece on the lessons the country took from that disaster and  how it can teach others to  cope with rising seas levels;

– President Obama visited Tuscaloosa, one of the tornado-ravaged cities in Alabama;

– the President also met eight surviving members of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike. Dr Martin Luther King went to Memphis to support the almost entirely African-American workforce as they campaigned for better working conditions and on April 3 delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, the day before his too-early death.

And his speech is still amazingly apt today:

Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — “We want to be free.”

Have a good weekend.

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The funniest article I have read for a long time is Tour de Gall, AA Gill‘s review of Parisian restaurant L’Ami Louis in Vanity Fair.

This is his description of the dining room before he even gets going on the food :

It’s a long, dark corridor with luggage racks stretching the length of the room. It gives you the feeling of being in a second-class railway carriage in the Balkans. It’s painted a shiny, distressed dung brown. The cramped tables are set with labially pink cloths, which give it a colonic appeal and the awkward sense that you might be a suppository. In the middle of the room is a stubby stove that also looks vaguely proctological.

-more seriously it makes me ashamed that the government of Bangladesh is trying to take over Grameen Bank (Nicholas Kristof) ;

– new word watch : “precariat” – people whose lives are precarious because they have little or no job security, from precarious and proletariat (The Big Picture) ;

– new word watch II : “aerotroplis” – a city planned around its airport (The Wall Street Journal) ;

– old words used in an inspirational way: Clarence Jones, author of Behind the Dream, chooses the five best speeches of all time (The Browser) ;

Martin Luther King, Jr was the only person I have ever observed or known – and I’ve never ever seen or heard anyone do it since – who could compose a speech extemporaneously in real time and while he was speaking. Like we use computer skills, he could cut and paste in his mind from previous speeches or writings and he could insert those excerpts into his real time speech. It was an extraordinary ability. It was a transcendental experience to be there. It was like watching lightning captured in a bottle.

– visual inspiration : photographer Timothy Allen’ stunning images of people living in the world’s most extreme environments (BBC).

Have a good weekend.

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“As the suggestion took root, I watched Martin push aside the text of the speech I’d helped prepare – a text it bears noting, that did not contain the phrase ‘I have a dream’ ”

Behind the Dream : The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation by Clarence B Jones

As it is Martin Luther King Day, it felt appropriate to read this behind the scenes look at the creation of the momentous “I Have A Dream” speech.

I was amazed to learn that Dr King improvised the most memorable parts of the speech. He paused after reaching the seventh paragraph of his prepared remarks and at that point singer Mahalia Jackson, who was listening on stage, called out : ” Tell ’em about the ‘Dream’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘Dream!'”

“And he improvised it all. He spoke of children of different races holding hands. He spoke of a great metaphoric leveling of the land and a straightening out of ‘crooked places,’ which of course has an amazing dual meaning that would take some writers a lifetime to come up with.

It was hypnotic. Each time Martin told us that he had a dream, the world was pulled one step closer inside it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The crowd was rapt. I was charged with a feverish kind of love for my friend. By the time Martin quoted Samuel Francis Smith’s “America” I figured you could measure the tears of joy in the crowd by the gallon.”

Proof that the right person at the right time with the right words really can change history.

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There were two important anniversaries during the past week:

Dr Martin Luther King Jr‘s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28 1963. Although 47 years have passed, it seems just as important today to try to live up to his ideals:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

– the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Getty Images photographer Mario Tama’s new book Coming Back: New Orleans Resurgent captures the city’s unique spirit.

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