“Special Orders” the part of the legislative order of business is when members of the House may speak freely on any topic of their choosing, not otherwise on the agenda. Topics run the gamut from light-hearted and humorous to the serious. Recently, two of us in the House presented Special Orders about the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King.
I remember the great civil rights cultural battles of the fifties and sixties. These historic times prompted by initial interest in politics.
I watched Kings famous and inspiring “I have a dream” speech on television – perhaps the greatest speech I’ve heard in my lifetime. I remember, as an Air Force private in 1951, not being allowed entry to a restaurant in Chandler, Arizona - because I was with a black airman and a Filipino fellow airman from my band squadron at Williams Air Force Base. I remember in 1962 living off base as a Captain attending a computerized air defense system (SAGE), at Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi, and having to sneak a black fellow Air Force Captain over to my home at night for a study session – because it was dangerous to have a black man seen with me in the front seat of my car, or to have a black man seen entering my home through the front door of my quarters. That same year, I remember sitting on a “colored” bus bench in Gulfport, Mississippi – and the bus driver threaten to call the cops (I hadn’t sat on the “wrong” bench deliberately – but I did “mouth off” to the bus driver, saying the bench was painted white, so I didn’t know it was “colored”).
We have made a lot of progress since those days, and it’s good to look to the future. That’s what Martin Luther King did. There remain racial inequities to be fixed, but it’s a disservice to the great Martin Luther King, and racial equality, for anyone - whatever their race - to use the “race card” for politics, to give phony credence to an issue without merit, or for other nefarious purposes. Shame on those who do that.
I believe Dr. King was a leader by example; a uniter not a divider; an optimist, not a pessimist. That’s why Martin Luther King is one of my heroes. I wish today we had people of his caliber to address racial issues today.