A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why my dad shared about Medgar Evers

When I teach writing, I stress to young writers that they talk about things they know, are good at, or have a passion to learn more about. When I was in Dorothy Brown's class, US in the 20th Century, at Georgetown University during the Fall of 1984, I spent many hours with my father discussing his life as a young lawyer during a time when America coming to a higher level of consciousness on many levels -- the 1960's.

My dad and I had many long conversations about the conflict that has always been at the core of America since the days of of our Founding Fathers, a conflict which drove many of the decisions in how the US Constitution was constructed and that I had been studying at Georgetown: the question about who to include in or exclude from "equal protection" under US law. The assassination of the returning war hero, track star, community leader, insurance salesman, husband, father, and personal friend, Medgar Evers, who was shot in the back while unloading "Jim Crow Must Go" signs from the trunk of his car, could have strengthened the hand of community leaders intent on silencing Evers, but instead the assassination of Medger Evers attracted national media attention. That was no accident, but instead sprung a legal trap which Evers and my dad had been developing called "Federal Presence," a strategy designed to draw the federal government into the South to put an end to Jim Crow Laws.

The paper which I wrote for Dorothy Brown in the Spring of 1985, my Senior year of college, was all over the place, just an unfortunate piece of writing. The project expanded well beyond the scope of what I, as a 22 year old college student, was capable of handling -- I went ADD. My dad spent many hours talking about his disappointment with his friends from the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty, and their failures to embrace solutions that addressed the root causes of inequality, social and economic injustices, which dad was unable to leave unchallenged, given his willingness to sacrifice even his family in his Captain Ahab-like pursuit of Justice.

One the ways my dad sidetracked me from writing a tight paper were the many hours we spent discussing his frustration about the inaction of close personal friends, such as Eddie Brown, the brother of Rap Brown, head of the Black Panthers, and others from SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), a man who had put his life on the line as a student but who had retired from the conflict after the passage of One-Man-One Vote. Dad recounted countless stories about close-minded individuals he faced every step of the way while working for the Department of Health Education and Welfare, where after being tasked with writing the legal brief against School Vouchers, after spending many hours hearing and analyzing the arguments of his opponents, so that he could defeat them, he came away with a changed opinion and became one of the earliest proponents of school vouchers, That Spring, dad recounted the meeting he had with Louis Kelso that changed his life, and how he later persuaded the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Russell Long, and his young staffer, Jeff Gates, to meet with Louis Kelso, which led to the passage of the original laws which enabled the proliferation of Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP's).

Dad has always been far ahead of his times.The vision which inspired my dad 50 years ago is at the heart of the Industrial Homestead Act, That vision addresses core social, economic, and moral issues that cannot be avoided as we approach what Ray Kurzweill calls "The Singularity," but like his report about the assassination of Medgar Evers, nobody is listening.

If my goal was to get great grades during college, the smart thing to do would have been to narrow the topic to the assassination of Medgar Evers. I could have interviewed my dad and unearthed many stories like the one, such as the time when he was stopped along a dark road in Mississippi by the Sheriff, who happened to be the head of the Ku Klux Clan, while driving home the children of a civil rights leader. Dad flashed his Federal Badge, and doing his best John Wayne impersonation, dad asked condescendingly, "What seems to be the problem, Officer?"

Dad told me about the time he persuaded Julian Bond to picket Sargent Shriver because his office was silencing his report on the assassination of Medgar Evers, but I was unable to focus. That inability to focus is called "The Curse of Knowledge" by the Heath brothers, co-authers of Made to Stick. Sticking to the Assassination of Medgar Evers would have been a far more entertaining paper, but then again, I would probably not have spent the next 16 years working for Allied Plywood Corporation, and would not own the home from which I am writing today.
This is the email that sparked my most recent episode of ADD, which pulled me from writing about the amazing thing that happened in my classroom the other day. That I will have to leave for another time, because Mabel needs a walk.

Hi Guy,

I'm sure Medgar, a true hero, would be pleased at President Obama's decision to extend this honor to his widow.

I thought you might be interested in the attached items.
[The attached items are some of the documents that I posted last night via Twitter and on my MrKurland Wiki. There were other documents, but I haven't read them yet.]


On 1/8/13 6:45 PM, Guy C. Stevenson wrote:

Norm, thought you would find this interesting . . .
President Obama has picked Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation at his public swearing-in later this month. It is believed to be the first time a woman, and a layperson rather than a clergy member, has been chosen to deliver what may be America’s most prominent public prayer.
The inaugural committee Tuesday plans to announce that the benediction will be given by conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, which draw tens of thousands of people to events around the world.
The contrasting choice of speakers are typical of a president who has walked a sometimes complicated path when it comes to religion — working to be inclusive to the point that critics at times have questioned his faith.