At the end of this week that we celebrate the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, I recommend that you find 45 minutes this weekend to listen to this podcast*: http://chasingamericanhistory.com/robert-f-kennedys-speech-on-the-night-of-martin-luther-kings-assassination/
This podcast ultimately is about Robert Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis announcing Dr. King’s death, not Martin Luther King per se. However, much of the time is spent providing context about the history of the time between John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Martin Luther King’s–which would be followed pretty soon afterwards by Robert Kennedy’s death. It reviews the pressures that were placed on all the major players.
One of the great things about this podcast for me is that it reminded me was how much opposition Martin Luther King faced in his time. He was stabbed, bombed, put in prison, vilified in the media, spied on by the FBI, discouraged by just about every level of government, and was opposed by many even within the civil rights/African American community who thought either he was too radical or that he wasn’t radical enough. And yet, with all that, look how he reminded committed to the power of love! Knowing all that he was dealing with, while still espousing love, encourages me to give up my judgements about people who have never directly harmed me in the way Martin Luther King had been harmed and to commit to loving them for a higher path for all of us.
The other great thing about this podcast is that it analyzes why Robert Kennedy’s speech was so effective in diffusing violence in that city. Robert Kennedy had scheduled a campaign event for his run for the presidency against the current Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, in one of the poorest and blackest sections of Indianapolis. In those days before CNN and Internet and Twitter and even cell phones, it fell to him to inform his primarily black audience of the death of Dr. King. But what he said, and how he connected with a community whose life experience was very different from his, made a huge difference; unlike many American cities, Indianapolis did not have sorrow/rage-riots that night.
So this podcast is not all about Dr. King. But it is also about two leaders from totally different backgrounds, totally difference cultures, totally different constituencies, who used their voices and their convictions and their moral authority to reduce violence, to increase connection, and to unite a country. I’m sure that Dr. King would love us all to celebrate his day with a greater appreciation of how and why to do that. I think it is good for us all to remember that we have had politicians who knew how to inspire us to bridge our differences and to encourage us to work together. Personally, that’s what I’m looking for in the politicians seeking my votes this year.
*Full disclosure: The podcast is by my youngest brother, David Cross. After about a couple of decades of being a lawyer, mostly as a public defender in the Philadelphia court system, my brother hung up his bar card and started his own business giving historical tours. His company, Bow Tie Tours, offers tours mostly in the Philadelphia area but also some extended tours of Revolutionary and Civil war sites. He has always been super passionate about history and is a great story teller, and having attended a couple of his Philadelphia tours, I think he does a wonderful job with his tours (and I’m not the only one, because when the cast of the traveling company of Hamilton were performing in Philadelphia, they chose him to take them on a tour of revolutionary Philly sites) . Even though I think I know a lot about history, I always learn something from his podcasts, and so I like to share them with others.