Dr King and Our Greatest Tragedy

I like to speak to students on motivational and fun topics; I didn’t want to preach about respect. I had worked with youth and their families in conflict, but I had chosen to be a speaker. Now, I just wanted to motivate, educate and entertain students and then go home. But with incidents from Kentucky to California, to rural Cold Spring, MN and of course Columbine, school shootings were beginning to get many to question whether our kids were safe at school. When teachers learned of my background working with “at risk” youth, they kept asking me for a presentation to address what many feared to be a trend in school shootings.

One day my son asked if it was true that if he had lived when Dr. King was alive that he would not have been able to sit at a restaurant with his own god-father just because he is white and his god-father is black. When I answered it was true in some parts of the country, my blond, blue eyed, 6-year-old- son looked up at me and asked “why would people be like that?” WOW! GREAT question! As I was researching my presentation on respect and looking for an answer to the question from my son, I came across something Dr. King said in the early 1960s. I had an epiphany.

Dr. King said, “It may be that the greatest tragedy in this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people, but the appalling silence of the so-called good people”. Now, I really understood what I needed to say. It is up to us, “we the people”, to make things better. Within a few hours this quote had formed my outline for my presentation originally called An Uncivl Society and almost 10 years later is still the foundation for Promoting Peace in an Uncivil World.

What Dr. King said in the 1960’s seems to apply equally to the students I speak to today. We don’t have to look very hard to see the many transitions we are currently experiencing – economic transitions, political transitions, military transitions and global transitions; for students, physical and mental growth transitions and school to life transitions are always front and center. Students experience and/or hear about these transitions every day.

Students also hear about bad people in the news every day. We hear about the school shooters and the 9/11 terrorists. We hear about corporate and political scandal and corruption. Dr. King experienced those tragedies and more but still believed our greatest tragedy was “not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people”. Dr. King believed that our greatest tragedy was the “appalling silence of the so-called good people”. He believed that the vast majority of us know what is right and must no longer remain silent. If Dr. King is right THIS IS GREAT NEWS! Apathy is fixable! We can begin to pay attention and participate today. We can begin today to make the world a better place. Actions speak louder than words and Gandhi said “we must become the change we wish to see in the world”.

Today, as we remember Dr. King, let’s take the opportunity to remember we all can and do make a difference with our actions. EVERYDAY we have opportunities to make someone’s world better! EVERYDAY we can do something at home to make the world better! EVERYDAY we can do something at school to make the world better! EVERYDAY we can do something in our community to make the world better! EVERYDAY we can do something in our global community to make the world better! Will you take the opportunity!

My name is Byron and I speak to students.

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3 Responses to “Dr King and Our Greatest Tragedy”

  1. ainsliehunter Says:

    Thank you for a thought provoking post. And the quote you found….”apalling silence os so-called good people”

    Wow! It really sums it up.

  2. JonB Says:

    Well said there, Byron. I always like another quote by Dr. King along those lines: “The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.” It’s good to be reminded about that quote and to reflect on it from time to time.

  3. Laurie Wolt Says:

    Very good. If we could convince kids to think about what they could do each day to make a difference – however small – maybe it would be a habit by the time they become adults.

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