Monday, January 18, 2016


Celebrating Dr. King

I was fifteen years old, and at the public library doing research, when the news broke on April 4, 1968 that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

It was disturbing, depressing news. Just two months later, Robert Kennedy would also be killed by an assassin's bullet in Los Angeles.

As someone who wound up devoting his life to the rhetorical arts, and to the settling of political disputes by reasoned argument and reliance on evidence, of course these horrific events had much to do with shaping my worldview.

It was during my college studies in rhetoric that I came to appreciate what a powerful public speaker Dr. King had been. He use of rhetorical devices was masterly, and even now it is impossible for me to read his speeches without feeling a deep admiration for their artistry. Since I competed in intercollegiate debate and speech contests, I was a member of the Pi Kappa Delta honor society. The society's name came from the Greek saying Peitho Kale Dikaia, which translates loosely as "The Art of Persuasion, Beautiful and Just." Dr. King's rhetoric certainly lived up to that high standard.

King's most-remembered speech was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. On the off-chance that you've never heard it, you can listen (and read a transcript as well) at the American Rhetoric website's page devoted to what they rank at the top of their Top 100 Speeches list.

I like to think that if Dr. King were alive today he would condemn the excessively race-obsessed political left, embodied in such nonsense as BlackLivesMatter protests and whining about "racism" in the Academy Award nominating process.

I have spent my life not caring whether an actor, or a writer, or a musician, etc., was black or white, male or female. I celebrate excellence in all fields of human endeavor, regardless of race or sex. I oppose unfair discrimination based on race or sex with my words and my actions. That is the world Dr. King spoke of so eloquently, but despite all the high-flown rhetoric you'll hear about him today, we are farther away from that world than ever before. Historical illiteracy has allowed opportunists to co-opt Dr. King's vision for their own bitter, divisive ends. It is shameful.

It was no accident, of course, that Dr. King delivered his most famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Both men embraced the idea that what binds us together as citizens is more important than whatever may seem
to divide us.

Today is a day to remember and celebrate the life of a man who, despite his human imperfections, urged us to listen to what Lincoln, in his first Inaugural Address more than 100 years before, called "the better angels of our nature."

Dreams Deferred

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers fought hard, but fell short.

My dream of seeing my beloved Kansas City Chiefs play in their third Super Bowl were dashed on Saturday.

My best friend Skip's similar dream for his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers ended yesterday after a hard-fought 23-16 loss to the Denver Broncos.

We're not entirely sure what to do until pitchers and catchers report next month, but
it's a safe bet you won't catch us watching and talking about Barclay's Premier League Soccer...

"What about Cal-Irvine basketball?"

That's a possibility...they're 15-5 and tied for first in the Big West Conference standings...

Compassion vs. Common Sense

From the Johnny Hart-created comic strip B.C., now being produced by Hart's daughter Perri and his grandsons Mason and Mick Mastroianni.

Until Next Time...

Part of Dr. King's legacy was his belief in the power of love to defuse hate and ultimately end political violence. One of the aspects of popular culture which most embodies that ethos is music.

Among other things, the 1960s was a time when music helped to fuel the civil rights movement by breaking down barriers between the races. Records that would never have been played on mainstream radio in the 1950s suddenly became chart-topping successes in the 1960s.

One of the artists most responsible for causing those walls to come tumbling down was Otis Redding, the King of Soul.

Otis Redding at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival
In one of his last major concert performances before his untimely death in a plane crash, Redding electrified the mostly white audience at the legendary Monterrey Pop Festival on June 17, 1967.

In addition to being a powerful live performer with a distinctive singing voice and style, Redding was also very influential as a songwriter. His signature composition "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" became the first song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart posthumously.

On January 18, 1989 Otis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Today's send-off is my personal favorite song of his, the joyful "Love Man," a song from the posthumous album of the same name, released in 1969. The song has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, most famously in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.

I like to think Dr. King would find it a fitting choice. Enjoy...

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