By Dan Mikel
We have just finished celebrating the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in January and are entering Black History Month in February.
What was happening in your life on August 28, 1963 when King delivered his powerful “I have A Dream” speech? I was just entering my first year of what would turn out to be a 35-year teaching career. A long time ago. Beyond reference to that famous “I Have a Dream Speech”, I heard a line from another speech by King referenced this January:
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but
The silence over that by the good people.”
As good people, how do we answer the questions of our grandchildren or great grandchildren about, “What did you do, Grandma or What did you do, Grandpa”? during those turbulent times of the civil rights movement? Good questions. Our answers will vary.
Questions might be raised in the future such as, “What did you do, Grandma or What did you do, Grandpa during the terrible times approaching 2020?
Our grandchildren or great grandchildren may have studied the Holocaust in their History class and read the statement from Pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.”
There are actions we can take now – in 2019. No one will be able to do all the suggestions, but all of us can do some of them. Let’s consider how we can break the silence of the good people.
TRADITIONAL ACTIONS. During election seasons – and unexpected special elections- we can door knock or drive people who are door knocking. We can telephone about candidates or issues. We can write post cards.
A STEP BEYOND. We can attend rallies (knees and hips permitting). We can attend legislative hearings. We can write a Letter to the Editor. We can go to our precinct caucus. We can attend a labor conference (such as the one being planned right now for this September). We can learn more about social media (Facebook and Beyond), so that we can communicate effectively in the 21st century. See further information elsewhere in the Retiree Bulletin.
GRASSROOTS UNION ACTIVITY. We can join and be active in a union retiree group. If a union retiree group does not exist in your area or does not exist with your former work colleagues, then establish one! The Minnesota State Retiree Council can help you get started. Contact President Ken McInnis.
REACH OUT IN YOUR COMMUNITY. There are faith-based organizations and community organizations that can benefit by your labor perspective. You can be a positive force.
BE INFORMED. Paid family leave is of prime importance this year at the legislature. What do you know about it? Turn to the Minnesota AFL-CIO to find out about this vital topic. What about significant changes being discussed regarding Social Security or Medicare? Do you know the ramifications of various proposals? Go to retiredamericans.org and you will learn a lot.
VOTE. Elections have consequences. We see the difference in the U.S. Congress right now. We see that in our realigned Minnesota government right now. Be part of the reason that Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the nation.
IN CLOSING. We are part of the “good people” of the United States. We cannot afford to be silent as major issues swirl around us. We need to be able to talk to our grandchildren or great grandchildren about how we did our own part, in our own way, during these turbulent times.