Let me ask you this:
Sixty-three years ago, what were you doing?
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t ask that.
What were you doing … Forty years ago?
Forty years ago did you call a person a, “N?”
Call me a coward, call me a hypocrite, I will never say or write the word, “N….”
How about 30 years ago?
Yeah, some of you did, I know it.
In 1968 my uncle, coming home after the first of his three tours in Vietnam told me a joke.
Somewhere in this joke was the word “N.”
This was 1969? Something like that. I don’t remember the joke. And I swear, I didn’t know what “N” meant.
I was seven.
I poured over my little map books and stuff my aunts gave me, trying my best to figure out what Southeast Asia and the word, “N,” had in common.
That’s what I was doing in 1969.
That was the same year my uncle Bob slapped me (don’t get your dander up) for saying “N.”
I was just repeating the joke.
What were you doing in 1983?
Did you celebrate the Baltimore Orioles World Series championship?
How about 1990? What did you do in 1990 that made you … Something more than a smudge on time?
Seriously, what did you do that year?
Probably the same as me. Nothing special. But that was the year Communism started to crumble.
So, you probably took a breath, realized the cold war was over and you drank a bit too much.
And then drank some more.
It was 1990, and no one said, “N,” at least not in the way it was said in 1957.
It helps us all escape memories we’d rather not have.
Those times when we were … Fools.
Monday morning Clinton, Oak Ridge, and Anderson County celebrated the courage of 12 black/African American teenagers.
There was a ceremony, celebrating all that is good and grand.
Yes, the Foley Hill walk was 63 years ago.
That first walk.
A lot has changed. So it seems.
I’d like to say the lessons from 1956 and the walk down Foley Hill have enlightened us all.
I would like to say that.
But we have more work to do, don’t we?
But think about this:
Where would we be if 12 teenagers from Clinton, Tennessee, decided the walk down Foley Hill wasn’t worth the trouble.
For me, the realization that these 12 African American teenagers — TEENAGERS — had enough courage and enough faith in The United States of America to do what was right, does mean we are all in this together.
Those teenagers had the courage. I should, too.
Pick any year after 1956 and try to remember what that year was like.
All I know is after that August morning walk in 1956 — a simple task of going to school — we started the process of being the country we should be.