This last few years with reform efforts, Save East Greenbush and the victory of East Greenbush First has brought back some great feelings and memories from a long time ago. In 1958 I was a High School Junior in Patterson, California. I attended a leadership conference with students from all over the State at Asilomar Conference Center on the Coast. Speakers were Andrew Cordier from the United Nation who addressed the issues of the French Algerian conflict. (Some of that fallout might have been in Paris last week.) Martin Luther King, Jr. was there to talk about his experience in the Montgomery Bus boycott. I ran into King in the Recreation Hall and he asked me to shoot a game of pool. He cleaned my clock. In five years he'd be delivering the “I have a dream” speech, and in ten years he'd be killed by an assassin. That brief conversation with MLK was my first real encounter with a “mover of events.” He struck me as an ordinary guy with a vision and a commitment to it.
Six years later, the US Senate was debating the Civil Rights Bill which was introduced when JFK was still alive and in a major conflict with George Wallace. In the Spring of 1964 the debate in the Senate was long. The religious communities in the United States joined to support the passage of the Bill. Protestant, Catholic and Jewish theological students from all over the United States organized an around the clock 27/7 vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in support of the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. I was there with 5 of my Seminary classmates from Chicago for our “shift” from May 7 to May 9, 1964.
Don Johnson, Alden Johnson, Dave Norling, Dennis Glad, Wes Swanson and Dennis Erickson. (The Blues Brothers take Washington)
We were also “monitored” by this member of the American Nazi Party. George Lincoln Rockwell also paid an uncomfortable visit during our time on duty.
The New York times on its front page on April 29, 1964 credited the efforts of the churches and synagogues and the united theological students as influential in the passage of the Bill. When Lyndon Johnson signed it, it was a time of great joy and satisfaction.
The victory of EG 1st and the efforts of all of those who made that possible brought back some of the joyful feelings that I felt over 50 years ago. I'm proud to have been a part of it. Ordinary people can do the right thing and be on the right side of history.