Watchdog Blog

Mary C. Curtis: A Night in Denver

Posted at 8:57 am, August 29th, 2008
Mary Curtis Mug

Forty-five years ago, when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his `I Have a Dream` speech at the March on Washington, four members of my family witnessed history.

On August, 28, 1963, my mother boarded a bus with other members of our Catholic Church, dressed as though she were headed to Sunday Mass instead of a long day on the Washington Mall.

My brothers, Thomas and Tony, and sister Joan stood there, too. It was part of their commitment to the civil rights movement, earned by marching, demonstrations, sit-ins and – in Tony’s case – two arrests for ordering food in whites-only restaurants.

I was too young for such an adventure, so I watched at home with my sister Janice, none too happy to baby-sit.

On August, 28, 2008, I got to represent the family in Denver, one of the crowd of 75,000 who watched Barack Obama accept the Democratic presidential nomination. I was taking notes, as a columnist, wondering what I would and could say. I realized that someone else, miles away, might more wisely reflect on what I was seeing.

I called Joan in Los Angeles, who was watching on television with her daughter.

I held up the phone and she listened. Then, it was my turn to listen as she cried. She talked about walking in the cold and the snow and the heat during those marches. “I never thought I’d see the day,” she said.

At that moment onstage, Obama was remembering his grandmother. “She poured everything she had into me….Tonight is her night, as well.”

Neither our mother nor Tony lived to see the fulfillment of King’s dream. But Joan and I knew they’d be proud and happy. “I’m so glad someone in the family could be there,” Joan told me.

In my columns on Democratic and Republican candidates, I’ve interviewed members of the crowd and reported the scene through them. Now it’s down to two candidates, and it’s up to journalists to examine policies and politics, match word to deed and share with readers. I think any professional is up to that task.

But to somehow sidestep a convention night tableau that America has never seen is to miss a big part of a story that is still being written.

Forty-five years ago on a hot day in August, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, full of church ladies with patience and young people with none, and made them dream the same dream.

The least I could do on this cool Denver evening is put down my notebook for a moment, think of mom and Tony and so many like them, and smile.

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