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BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Fifty years ago today, April 4, 1968, the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, was arguably the worst day in American history.
What about 9/11, and the attack on Pearl Harbor? Those were vile attacks by foreigners, not by one of our own.
What about the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy? Horrendous atrocities that did not pit the races against one another and trigger the destruction of our cities the way the King murder did.
For those of us who lived through it, black and white, the memory of that terrible day still hurts, badly. To understand why, it’s worth re-reading Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to recall the genius that made him and the movement he led such an effective political force.
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“We have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check,” he said on the DC mall in 1963. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It was that vision of civil rights as the fundamental promise of America – along with the sight of peaceful protesters being brutalized – that pushed Washington to pass the landmark civil rights laws of the 1960s.
“I still have a dream,” Dr. King said that day. “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
And that’s why the memory of April 4, 1968, still brings tears – because a big part of that dream died that day.
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