Sparked by Words

Posts tagged ‘equality’

The War on Poverty is Won

Fifty years ago this month President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a remarkable piece of legislation. It came to be known as The War on Poverty.

Several posts on this blog have been commemorative. Certain events that happened twenty-five, fifty, or a hundred years ago should be remembered, noted, and honored. We ought to think about them and the impact these moments have had on our lives. For many of you these are history class assignments requiring you to research the Internet or in (sheesh) real books and magazines in order to get the facts, ma’am. In my case, I remember the incidents themselves and can track the new arc my life or other’s lives have taken because of such moments. Yes, it’s a comment on how old I am and how young you are, or maybe how sentimental I am and how incidental these events might appear to you.

To show how far I go into the way-back machine: I have a scar on my body that most of you don’t, that most of you have never seen, either mine or anyone else’s. It’s a quarter-sized, scraggly dent on my upper left arm from the smallpox vaccination I got when I was about three years old. My dad, a newly minted physician, had taken me to Jefferson Medical Hospital in Philadelphia and lined me up with the other lucky recipients. (And yes, we were damned lucky to have access to the vaccination.) A glass stall enclosed a huge flame, maybe to sterilize the instruments or to heat the vaccine. Or maybe I remember a fiery part of the process that didn’t actually happen, adding import to an event so large that only the adjunct of fire could capture its significance. Smallpox vaccination is given with a bifurcated needle, a thin steel tool that resembles a tiny pitchfork. I watched the needles being dipped into the serum and scratched into flesh, one swabbed arm after another. I was too terrified to cry or at least I think I was.  More likely I screamed my head off. I was possibly, probably, the youngest person to be vaccinated that afternoon, but my father was not going to let me leave Philly without that armor. There might have been only a very few cases of smallpox in Philly to worry about, though they did frighteningly appear in the contiguous States. At that time, nearly everyone in any part of the U.S. was vaccinated as the illness was an equal opportunity invader and anyone could get it. (more…)

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D is for Dares with Dreams

I’m writing this post on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech as it was presented at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. It’s fitting that this entry be more somber than others in the Alphabet of a New Blog series.

Many of you reading this only know Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement from history books, documentaries, news articles, TV broadcasts, and the like. I knew Dr. King from my place in the generation to whom he addressed his concerns. Too young to march with him, I later spent my college years singing “We Will Overcome” and rallying against continuing inequalities, the heady sense of social justice and righteousness fresh from the earlier Civil Rights marches. I worked on behalf of lowering the voting age to 18, figuring that a man deemed old enough to fight and perhaps die for our country should be considered old enough to vote. I’m still proud of my contribution to that success. It cost me a semester of perfect university grades to help get that job done, and I don’t regret my choice. (more…)