Monday, January 15, 2018

A man without borders

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, first observed on January 20, 1986. Were he alive today, King would have celebrated his 89th birthday. During the coming holiday weekend, millions of Americans will remember the civil rights leader and human rights advocate.

King was a husband, a father, and a preacher. He was also the preeminent leader of a movement that continues to transform America and the world. One of the twentieth century's most influential men, he lived an extraordinary life.

To truly understand King, this writer believes that one should read his writings. Scholars and casual researchers can now gain access to these important jewels of history. Two years ago, for the first time, a major portion of King’s papers went public.

Computer access to the documents, which have been digitized and cataloged, are available at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center. Click here to gain access the collection.

The documents include many of King’s speeches and personal writings from 1946 to 1968. Journalists, historians, legislators and community leaders continue to examine whether King's appeal for peace with justice is as relevant today as it was when he was alive. A few years ago, an editorial in the Houston Chronicle attempted to place King's philosophy into present-day perspective. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Although he rose to national prominence fighting racial segregation in the South, many of the issues roiling the United States 38 years after his assassination would be very familiar to Martin Luther King Jr.

Before his death, the Baptist minister had denounced America's involvement in the Vietnam War, a daring stance that fueled the growing opposition to the carnage in Southeast Asia. He was bitterly criticized in the media and by government officials for venturing beyond the sphere of civil rights, as if that were the only area in which he was entitled to an opinion.

With the country now split by the bloody, open-ended struggle in Iraq and by the mistaken justification for going to war, it's not hard to predict where King would stand on the matter.

Americans debate the revelation that their government is conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans inside the United States. King had plenty of experience on that score. He was relentlessly wiretapped and trailed by the FBI. Then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was convinced that King was a communist sympathizer.

Just as he stood with refuse workers in Memphis in the last days before an assassin's bullet struck him down, King would championed the dispossessed evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, potent symbols of a race-based economic underclass that persists as a legacy of slavery and discrimination. The New Orleans nightmare that Katrina exposed indicates that the vision King enunciated in his "I Have a Dream" speech is not yet realized.

Like his role model for nonviolent protest, Mohandas K. Gandhi, King grew to be a world figure by embracing universal humanitarian concerns that surmounted ethnicity and religion. As he once said, "Evil is not driven out, but crowded out ... through the expulsive power of something good."
That's why the celebration of his life today cannot be limited to a single community or issue. African-Americans are justly proud that he rose from their ranks, but his life is significant to all Americans.
It's been nearly five decades since King's death in 1968. For years, many scholars have suggested that King faced the same fate that has befallen many a historical figure - being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

Eight years ago, Barack Obama took over as the country's chief executive officer. At the time, many believed that with this historic presidency came the "thawing" of the King legacy.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Remembering the Christmas miracle and the treasure of friendship
During this joyous occasion, I remember the prophesy of peace - and the reason for the season of Christmas. It is also a time to be thankful for friends.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for a special gift,
one that cannot be bought
for any amount of money.

Thank you for a gift wrapped in beauty,
that is wonderful in all seasons and times.

Thank you for a gift that is always near
in times of need
and brings great joy.

Thank you for the gift that sparkles
with freshness every day.

Thank you for my friend.
May I never take this gift for granted.

(by John C. Maxwell)

C H R I S T M A S !

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A few thoughts about editors

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” —H.G. Wells

"The greatest drive is not love or hate. It is one person's need to change another's copy."

“Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.”—T.S. Eliot

"The writer who can't do his job looks to his editor to do it for him, though he won't dream of sharing his royalties with that editor." —Alfred Knopf

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Coping with cranky critics

From time to time, I am reminded that criticism can be a touchy issue for many people, especially writers.  Writers everywhere share something in common -- dealing with naysayers.  Feeling hurt because a critic cut your masterpiece to shreds? You're not alone. Criticism and bruised egos are inherent in publishing, communications, and life.

Here are some tips on how to cope with critics.
  • It’s natural to feel hurt about criticism, but don’t drown yourself in pity. Get over it.
  • All critics are not alike. Some are just plain cranky while others consider themselves experts. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into people who offer you constructive comments – objective opinions that can help you improve your work.
  • Understand that some critics will attack anyone or anything just to draw attention to themselves – to make themselves feel superior. Don’t take the remarks personally. Shake them off.
  • Separate the critic from the criticism. Commit this rule to memory!  Realize that any criticism may carry a little bit of truth. Be open to the fact that your work could use some fine-tuning, but never allow criticism to dampen your self-confidence.
  • Don’t dwell so much on criticism that you allow it to drain your energy and motivation. Deal with it, and then move on.
  • Understand that ALL writers have their critics. You don’t have to like it, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
Bottom Line: It’s a sure bet that the more you achieve, the more attention you’ll attract from critics. If you learn to handle criticism in a calm and positive spirit, you’ll definitely grow as a person and a writer.

A version of this post first appeared in 2006.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Remembering that infamous day

December 7 is the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.  Pearl Harbor survivors have met at the site every five years for four decades. But they're now in their 80s or 90s.  Many of the survivors aren't able to participate in a 75th reunion. Still, others have made every effort to report for one final roll call.

Illustration of Doris "Dorie" Miller defending the fleet at Pearl Harbor
Miller after being awarded the Navy Cross

Many military personnel risked their lives that day.  Among them was Doris "Dorie" Miller, a Navy cook. Miller was unfamiliar with handling anti-aircraft machine guns.  However, after he was given instructions and someone else loaded a starboard gun with ammunition, Miller fired the gun until he was out of ammunition.  He then helped to move injured soldiers.  For his heroism, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross.

The shocking air raid destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft. The attack killed two-thousand, 390 people, wounded nearly 12-hundred others - and plunged the U.S. into World War II.