Delco’s Adopted Native Son: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you ever read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous letter written from a Birmingham jail in April 1963?  Now might be a good time, since February 2012 is soon to close and will mark 36 years of being national Black History month.  

I came upon his remarkable letter a few months ago, while researching the topic of prison ministry for a project at work.  Since then, I’ve become much more appreciative of how not only Dr. King applied religion and philosophy toward the struggle for black civil rights, but also how he used it as clarion call for non-violent civic engagement.

For example:

“I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.”

“My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the non-violent resister may sound rather shocking.  But, I must confess that I am not afraid of the word tension.  I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, non-violent tension in society which is necessary for growth.”

Dr. King was very much on my mind, having just returned from an incredible trip to Washington DC, which included a visit to the MLK memorial and a stop at Freedom Park, the starting point for the 1963 March on Washington.

Naturally then, I was excited when I received an invitation days later from the Delaware County Historical Society (DCHS) and The Providence Forum to hear Dr. Peter Lillback discuss his new book “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” in honor of Black History month. 

I attended the event on Sunday, Feb. 26th which was held at the Community Performing Arts Center at the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology.  The event also marked PIT’s month-long celebration of the contributions from Delaware County’s black community.  There was even a special appearance from Chester city’s mayor, the Honorable John Linder and his wife.

It seemed fitting to recognize Dr. King since he received his bachelor’s in divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, before it merged with other religious institutions in Rochester, NY.  (as a side note, I want to thank Mrs. Jayne Garrison, DCHS’s board chair for pointing out this important historical footnote).

Dr. Lillback, who is also president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA, describes the letter as a scholarly masterpiece that reveals Dr. King’s theological genius, academic rigor and personal dynamism.  “Looking at Dr. King as a just a social activist is to see only about one-third of him as a person.  I wanted to present a more holistic picture of the man,” said Lillback. 

Looking back on this month, I have a whole new appreciation of Dr. King.  I’ve come to know him as a preacher, teacher and scholar; a son, husband and father; a dreamer, change agent and gifted writer; a leader, activist, friend and brother. 

What an absolute thrill it was to be in the same spot on the Lincoln Memorial’s steps where Dr. King addressed the march’s crowd that hot August day. 

Our tour guide asked us to imagine how he must have felt overlooking the sea of people on the National Mall – coming almost eye-to-eye with the Washington Monument.  I could not. 

Then, Dr. Lillback asked us to imagine how we would write “a prison epistle” completely by memory on the side of a prison cot – no reference books, no desk, not even proper writing paper. I could not. 

But, then I remembered Dr. King’s unshakeable faith in God and America’s promise of freedom and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come from our Creator.

And I thought, ah-ha!  That’s how he was able do it.  Because as former freedom marcher Mayor Linder said, “Dr. King was locked up but NEVER in jail.”


Gabby Giffords has an awesome smile (now, here comes the “but”)

AZ Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is an amazing person.  She’ll be at the State of the Union this evening.  For sure, she is a lovely and strong lady, but who the heck was representing her district for one year, while she was recuperating? I thought her stepping down was too long in coming and way overdue.

Ultimately, she is a public servant and the people, not her career come first.  This is not a sign of leadership.  Considering her severe trauma, I was very skeptical of her so-called return to Congress in Aug. 2011 to cast a vote to raise the debt ceiling, of all things.  No big deal.  Was she even able to comprehend what she was doing?  Again, I applaud her bravery, but come on — you think she really understood the situation and implication her vote had on her district, let along the American people?  I doubt it. 

Speaking of leadership, I’d wager a multi-million dollar bet that if Gabby were a Republican instead of a Democrat, the media would have blasted her up n’down and inside n’out of the Washington beltway for not exiting sooner. 

I am sick n’ tired of the double-standard and this crazy political correctness at the expense of WE THE PEOPLE!!

Here’s the link from August.  You tell me.

Joining the Daily Times corps de bloggers

At the Daily Times offices last Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting editor Phil Heron, on-line editor Vince Carry and the community bloggers.

With a concept in mind and slice of pizza in hand, I learned about some really cool blogs like these: 

I actually sat next to Nicole, TSYD blogger and discovered she was a Cardinal O’Hara student.  As an O’Hara alum, I was delighted to learn of her participation.  She also runs the school’s TV studio.  So, I thought she deserved a special shout out here.

Now, when it came time to introduce mine, I received the exact response that I was dreading – everyone liked it.

Before the holidays, I was seriously thinking about having my own blog.  Being a PR pro and former editor, I felt confident my writing was good.  I realized instead that it was those nasty bugaboos – fear, resistance and procrastination lurking overhead and making me doubt myself.

So, when I saw Phil’s Twitter tweet calling all bloggers, I took it as a sign.  My boss letting me leave the office early was another.  Getting a warm welcome at Daily Times offices –well, not exactly like following a star, but you get where I’m going with this.  Needless to say, everything kinda came together. 

I created my blog called Smiling at Life because in this tough economy, we need to remind ourselves to do just that.  Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by people who can persevere though the most difficult of circumstances, yet still keep working toward their goal.  I’m equally curious as to how people can squander their fortune, especially after years of trying to obtain it. 

Overall, I intend to examine various leaders and the subject of leadership.  I’ll write about people from Delaware County and throughout the world ranging from politicians and celebrities to educators and everyday people.  That being the case and since I’m somewhat of a cynic (a fact that I’m rather proud of), I reserve the right to use the term “leader” rather loosely.  I think it’ll make things much more fun.

So, how about you?  Are you facing a setback? Or, have you made it big and are in danger or worse yet, in complete denial that you’re about to lose it all?  In either case, save yourself.  Get a slice a pizza and read my blog.  I guarantee you’ll have something to smile or at least to think about.

Okay, I have a bone to pick with Paula Deen

As an entrepreneur – she is 100% fabulous.  I applaud her success.  Love her show, books and food.  That said, what in the world is she doing?  I mean sponsoring a drug for Type II Diabetes?  That’s all we need – another celebrity pushing pills for what can be better managed with proper diet and exercise.  

Clearly, she needs medical help for her condition since she hasn’t slimmed down even after being diagnosed three years ago.  This is probably a high-risk situation now and hopefully, pills will be a short-term solution. Repeat, short-term solution.  I hope she takes better care of herself.

I’m all for making lemonade out of lemons, but this is different.  Her foray into pharmaceutical endorsements is a bad idea for her brand.  It dilutes it.  Paula is the product.  She’s chubby and jolly and loves to cook and eat fattening, greasy and very delicious foods.

Seriously, what will happen to her empire if she loses weight and goes cold-turkey?

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Paula Deen spokeswoman said that the chef will be creating lighter alternatives for her recipes and is in discussions with the Food Network to have those recipes incorporated into her show. She added that Ms. Deen will also “stay true to her Grandmama Paul’s Southern cooking, which is part of her heritage.”

I’m confused.  How do fat and skinny go together?  The answer is they don’t. 

How will she incorporate these two opposites on her show?  Will she create a companion low-cal Southern food recipe guide on Novo Nordisk’s website for a diabetes drug?  Will she star in wretched weepy commercials or show up on billboards and be featured in magazines pushing her anti-diabetes agenda?   

I hope not.  I’m not interested in hearing any of that from Paula.  I watch her because nobody else cooks fried fattening food with such joy.  I look forward to virtually indulging my appetite when I turn on the television.  I can feel my mouth start to salivate after her preview of that day’s devilishly decadent vittles. 

And, for a lady who connects so well the average viewer, I question how her fans might react to what appears to be capitalizing on her misfortune.  Then again, I’m pretty sure the media will laud her for being so brave and so open about her situation.  Let the gushing begin.

I know this diabetes marketing angle may sound tempting, but don’t do it Paula. Don’t get sidetracked.  You can get better and keep your business healthy at the same time.  Avoid the drug propaganda.  Stick with butter, sugar and molasses.  It’s what you know and what made you rich n’ famous.