I was only 15 when you left us (and you were only 39), but I wanted you to know that you made a real impact in the life of this Southern boy, as you did in the lives of so many others. Your powers of speech were spellbinding to me, but I think what impressed me the most was your willingness to pay the price for whatever you felt God was calling you to do. A bit like the apostle Paul, in fact, you were beaten, threatened, imprisoned, and despised by many, but not by that Audience of One.
So just in case you’re wondering, we’re still working on that dream you had, the one where your children would be judged one day not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Of course, those children now have children and maybe even grandchildren of their own. And in many ways, the country has gotten better at becoming a place where race is not as much of a limiting factor as it once was. But I’m afraid we’re not there yet, and by some measures, we may actually have slipped back a notch or two simply because of apathy and selfishness. For as you once said, “nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
Still, I have to believe that as you also suggested, “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,” and likewise, “the time is always right to do what is right.” We’ll keep trying, thus, inspired by your example. In the meantime, I hope you had a happy 90th birthday in Heaven. I’m looking forward to meeting you there one day.