I was a sophomore in high school in a small southern Indiana town in the spring of 1968. So many things were changing so fast and I was in between being a boy and a man.
I was still trying to come to grips with gun violence at that time. My mother had been shot to death in 1961 in our home. JFK was gunned down in Dallas in 1963. And only a few weeks before, on April 4, 1968, MLK was shot to death in Memphis. But now, here I was standing next to Robert F. Kennedy on the Courthouse Lawn. As I listened to his words, I felt a sense of hope. I had my basketball under my arm, and he asked me to toss it up to him. I did, he held it, and tossed it back to me, with that big RFK grin, showing all of his teeth. I remember the crinkled creases in the corners of his eyes, his tanned skin, and that unmistakable Kennedy look.
A month later and RFK was gone, a shooting victim in the Ambassador Hotel in LA.
My mom, JFK, MLK, and RFK were just human beings. All of them made mistakes, all of them did some great things. My mom wasn't famous and she didn't change our nation or the world, but like JFK, MLK, and RFK, she didn't deserve to die a violent death by shooting.
In the spring of 1968 I was riding in the car with just my Dad. He asked me what was wrong. I sat silent for a moment and finally spoke, asking: "when is all the shooting going to stop"? He didn't answer me, and we rode home in silence. Over 50 years have passed since that evening, and no one has answered my question.
And so today, in America, we remember MLK. But how far have we come in 50 years?