As my instructor handed me the reading assignment for the day, I glanced quickly at the title and set it on the desk in front of me. “Excerpts of Letters From Birmingham Jail” it read. Hmm…a love letter? I wondered. She asked the class to read it and decide if it was a good example of a compare and contrast essay. I read it once, quickly, and couldn’t tell, so I began reading it again.
Quick side note: When I read something, I can’t help but try to re-write what the author is trying to say. Not to be critical, I just like to imagine how I would have worded the same idea.
So, while re-reading the essay, I tried to really pay attention and see if there was anything I would change, at this point feeling silly that I had assumed it a love letter. After a paragraph or two, I realized that there was nothing. It was beautifully written, and the arguments perfectly and eloquently made. It was also a perfect example of what the instructor was trying to demonstrate.
I was still reading when the instructor asked for comments about the piece, and a few students raised their hands and voiced opinions. She would smile, and ask for another. Meanwhile, although not quite finished with my second time through, I raised my hand. Now, saying what I want to say in an intelligible fashion is quite rare, and I was true to form. I stammered and stuttered and finally just said “It’s perfect!”
“Yes, I too like Dr. Kings writing.” was her response.
Dr. King, Dr. King, who’s Dr. King?! I know I should know who that is! I thought to myself, later relieved that no one can mind read. I looked at the essay again- Hmm, Birmingham jail, Birmingham, Alabama? What other Birmingham would it be? So, the south. Lets see- I looked back at the paper- Just. Unjust. And then: Are you kidding me?! Dr. Martin Luther King! How could I not know that! I tried to think of when I had learned about Dr. King, and to my shock, I don’t think I ever had! Not one time could I recall ever learning anything about him in any of my classes anywhere! Here I was, a year away from a bachelors degree, and I had never been formally educated about him. I regret that I had not taken it upon myself earlier in life to gain an understanding of the civil rights movement.
Today, I am glad to be remembering Dr. King and what he stood for.