We All Breathe The Same Air
It was sunny day on September 10, 1963 and commencement for American University [Washington D.C.] students was just beginning. President John F. Kennedy gave the commencement speech and he focused on peace in the world and how there was nothing more important to the world than peace. His stance against nuclear weapons and efforts to solve problems through diplomacy was clear in his words, "Peace need not be impractical, war not inevitable." He continued, talking about freedom -something many civil rights advocates could agree with: "There is not peace in many of our cities because there is not freedom."
That same day, 1000 miles away, twenty African-American students entered public schools in Alabama (Mobile, Tuskgee and Birmingham) after President John F. Kennedy sent National Guardsman to end the standoff with Alabama Governor George Wallace.
Many people in the United States have forgotten the name George Wallace, but some of us know the names of the two students he tried to prevent from going to class on June 11, 1963: Vivian Malone and James Hood. Governor Wallace's opposition of integration and refusal to let students register for classes prompted Executive Order 11118: Providing Assistance for Removal Of Unlawful Obstructions of Justice In The State of Alabama [09.10.1963; J.F.K.]. The order brought Deputy Attorney General and the National Guard to the University of Alabama to get the governor to step aside.
This same day in Prince Edward County, VA; WDBJ Television showed black students, lead by a black teacher reciting the Pledge of Allegiance [historical news footage].
The 20 years of civil rights struggles had its share of victories that many U.S. citizens take for granted today. In our current global era, the distinction between racial differences can be blurred or sharp depending on our view -or our mood. The steps that were taken to advance society over 40 years ago seemed great, yet today it seems we do not have to look far to see just how short our stride is, or how weary we have become.
You might think the issues today in your neighborhood are just with African, Mexican, Chinese or Arabic Americans; but that's not your issue. You have a human issue, in that you only see people similar to you -or just the people you like as humans; when in fact we are all human. We all deserve the same rights.
Or as John F. Kennedy said this day in 1963; "We all breathe the same air."