Martin Luther King Memorial Outtakes
One of the toughest things about my AP job is leaving so much good material out of my stories. Last Sunday's story about Obama's dedication speech was no exception. Here are a few of my favorite outtakes:
I spoke to Dick Gregory a few days ahead of the event. Dude was high-larious. He dispensed a lot of wisdom while steadily cracking jokes like:
"Nobody in they right mind even mentioned back then--they would put you in a mental hospital if you would have thought there would be a black president this quick. Even crazier than that would be having a Martin Luther King monument on their sacred land. The Indians talk about sacred land, but they ain't got no guns to protect it. The two of them (a black president and a memorial) coming together, nobody could have dreamed that. If anybody could have known that, they would have had the ability to win the lottery every day."
I asked Gregory if race would be a hard topic for Obama to avoid in his speech. He said, "He knows what he can do and what he can't do, that’s how he got to be president. We thought he always talked about (race) and then stopped. He never talked about it in a public forum. Like when Kennedy was (the first Catholic) president, how many times did he ever mention the pope? When did he say, 'I got to leave, I'm on my way to mass?'"Then he said, "What I love (about the King monument) is the Jefferson memorial is in front of him. Old Thomas Jefferson never thought there'd be a black man standing behind him, staring at him for the rest of time."
Something else I wish I could have incorporated was Nikki Giovanni's poem:
Finally, the couple I mentioned at the end of the story, the Coopers, had many interesting and insightful things to say. They were at the '63 March on Washington and heard King speak there. I asked them what they hoped Obama would say at the dedication. Paul Cooper said, "When King spoke, you had the feeling he was authentic, he was speaking from the heart, not merely saying things that were expedient to say. If Obama can learn anything from the lesson of MLK, it’s to do the same, to let his own voice come out. ... There are things he could say that would make people feel like he’s an authentic person. Not give the spiel du jour. People want to know that about Obama. They want to know who he is.”
After the speech, two other people I quoted used the word "authentic," or something like it. So Paul was onto something.
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Jesse Washington is a Senior Writer for ESPN's TheUndefeated.com