Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

bob schieffer CBS

Monday is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, and it got me thinking of just how much this country has changed because of him.

When I graduated from college, no black person had ever gone to any school that I had attended.

And I still remember the first black person I shook hands with. I was grown and I was in the Air Force. It wasn't because I tried to avoid it, but the opportunity had never arisen. We lived on one side of town. The black people lived on the other.

Yet, in less than my lifetime--a lot less, I hope--we have gone from a country that officially sanctioned segregation to one in which it is universally condemned. The courts changed the law, but it was Martin Luther King Jr. who made us face up to the law and told us why we should obey it. And when he did, attitudes began to change.

Back in 1960, John Kennedy had to make a long speech to assure voters he could be trusted even though he was a Catholic. Think of the selling job he would have had confronted had he been black back then.

Yet, what struck me, when Colin Powell was thinking of running for president several years ago was that race was the one question that never really came up.

And today, George Bush's ethnicity--read that, Texan--draws more comment than that of his secretary of state, which is hardly ever noticed. That is a big deal, and much of the credit goes to King.

In leading black people to their rightful place, he led all of us to a better world.

Tomorrow is a day off for most of us. Use part of it to tell the kids what Martin Luther King Jr. did, not just for African-Americans, but for all of us.


© MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments

Follow Us

Face on Twitter