MLK’s Dream … Not Yet Fulfilled

April 4, 1968.

Forty-six years ago today, a great man was assassinated. He was killed because he saw injustice and he had the audacity to speak up.

He is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the March on Washington, in 1963. He sought to make things right. His actions threatened the status quo, which had retaliated against him in many ways, eventually in the finality of his death by a sniper.

Shot dead.
In the heart of America.

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In the Spring of 1968, I suddenly became a paperboy, delivering the ‘Seattle Times’ in the Montlake area. Our next door neighbors were a large Catholic family, and Paul, a couple years older than me, had a paper route. I was his eager assistant, and he paid me with a bottle of Fanta or other 10¢ snacks from the vending machines at Larry’s gas station, where the route began at Boyer and 23rd. Paul used some of his paper route earnings to take up skiing, but then he broke his leg. So, given that I knew the route very well, I filled in for a few months. At 8-yrs-old, I thought I must be one of the richest kids in Seattle, because I was earning around $60 each month for 40-50 hours of work. Every day, the bunch of us paper boys would meet at the paper shack next to the Enco gas station, where regular ‘leaded’ gas was selling for around 20¢ per gallon. A high school kid ran the paper shack and would issue us our bundles of papers. I acquired the habit of reading the news while folding my papers. Of course, the dominant news of that era was the peaking American involvement in Vietnam. I saw the pictures. I read the articles. I actually paid attention to the news each day: the war, the protests, the  assassination(s), the corrupt political opacity, and all the other parts of that big mess. There, for all of us kids to absorb. …And we did.

Despite the news, the world seemed like a fresh and wonderful place at the time. But then, Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, followed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy that summer. When I turned eleven in May 1970, the excitement of my birthday was dimmed by the horror of that day’s biggest news story: Four Dead in Ohio, gunned down by our own National Guard.

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Shot dead.
In the heart of America.

Forgive me, please, if these events perhaps tempered me to become too sober, too serious, even four decades later.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was a rare man, yet he was also one of many. Not just for having been assassinated, but also for having spoken up, for having acted responsibly about the things he saw. He was a dissident voice, in the same way that Whistleblowers are a dissident voice. What made this man heroic was his resolute focus and irrepressible drive. He knew what was right, and he gave his heart and soul to spreading the word, speaking to make things right. Just as true Whistleblowers do.

Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream. He did not just call for racial harmony and justice; he also called for “…the crooked places to be made straight.” He prayed that, someday, the forces of hate and greed and power-lust would diminish, and the waters would part, revealing a land where all can prosper. All of his words live on, as a dream, though clearly not yet fulfilled.

We Whistleblowers also have a dream. That, someday, agencies like the FAA will shed their corrupt habits of opacity, deception and concealment and let the glorious and transparent light shine in. That, someday, our grandchildren may live in the great land this could have been, where truth and honesty and accountability are a proud and sustaining heritage. Someday.

We all have a dream. Thank you, MLK Jr., for fighting for yours.