By W.H. WATERS
As I walk day by day through the last days of my life, I wish that my living will have brought some value to the people I have known. Yes, I would like to be remembered!
As I seek something for the good of mankind, I find the lives of people who have done things that make my contribution very miniscule. Maybe I can continue to make some small contribution by holding up the great works of others.
This week the death of a great man, a great historian, a great teacher, a great American, a lover of this land etched its way into my heart more deeply than ever before. Sometimes you must lose something before you truly realize its value.
I had known Dr. John Hope Franklin for more than a few years. I knew he was born in Oklahoma and that he attended Fisk University and that he was the first black professor to hold an endowed chair at Duke University. His book, From Slavery to Freedom, was written in 1947. He held many other national honors. Even when he held the endowed chair at Duke he had to go elsewhere to eat or to go to the bathroom. How would we who are not black have reacted to such treatment? Would we have continued to work to make this land a better place?
What are some of the things Dr. Franklin helped to come into being by his life? First, I would say he acted with great dignity in conducting himself. Those he taught respected and admired him. His book helped Thurgood Marshall win the case before the U.S. Supreme Court known as Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954. It is still required reading in many college courses. He was just a great scholar and was able to start at Fisk University as a teacher. Then he went to be chairman of the History Department at Brooklyn College and on to his position at Duke. He was a trailblazer. HE might be called a model citizen for every American for he did great things that have brought a better nation for us all.
I sit here looking at President Clinton and his wife as they presented Dr. Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Oh, what a life he lived!
This man lived 94 years and rose to such great heights with so many obstacles put in his way. Wisdom does not come in specific color. He said he “just wanted to be on the firing line helping to make America a better place.”
When I think of such a life as this, I say maybe we as people should do this. I am not averse to it. My apology to all descendants of slaves is the way I try to live my life among them. I hope I have not failed and that I as well as all America hold out the hand of reconciliation and with all my heart hold open the door of opportunity for tomorrow s that they might walk through that door of opportunity with more ease. I believe the self-respect they gain will be worth far more than a written apology.
Wasn’t it great that Dr. Franklin lived to see President Obama as President of our land? He and others contributed greatly along the way.
God bless us all, red, yellow, black and white. Let us conduct ourselves to make our land a better land for all. Please, God, continue to bless America!
Editor’s Note: Mr. W.H. Waters is a resident of Lebanon and a contributor to The Wilson Post.