Dr. King and Paul Revere:
Lessons in readiness for change
Ivan J. Miller, 4/20/2012, v4.2
In our movement to obtain universal health care, we need to get Coloradans organized and ready for action when the necessary ballot initiative is written and when the election nears. The lives of Dr. King and Paul Revere show us about the importance of being ready ahead of time.
When I grew up in the white suburbs of Michigan during the early 1960s, in my teenage widening worldview, I saw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. enter the American consciousness and wake us to the evils of segregation. I was amazed at how one man quickly mobilized a nation to recognize and change injustice.
In my 65 years, I have learned there was much more to the story. Dr. King did not walk on the world’s stage in 1963 when my eyes first saw him or my ears first heard him. Since birth, he grew up in segregation. As a gifted middle-class son of a middle-class black preacher, he knew he had a special ability and potential. He dedicated his education and life to making a difference. In September 1954, at the age of 26, he became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a small church in Montgomery, Alabama. He arrived in a town that was ready for change. He walked into the middle of a 100-year strong movement to end segregation.
The African-American community in Montgomery organized through the churches. The desegregation movement was mobilizing around the country, and in Montgomery, they were ready to take a stand. They knew they needed to join together, and they were waiting for an example. While black people were occasionally jailed for failing to comply with segregation, not just anyone would do. When a feisty teenage girl was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus, the community did not react. It is hard for a movement to stand behind a teenager’s rebellion. Then, one day, Rosa Parks had a bad day. Rosa Parks was a respected, middleclass black woman, who was a seamstress, secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and teacher for the NAACP Youth Council. Although she did not plan it, one day she decided that she was tired of giving in to segregation, and with a soft and respectful voice, she refused to move to the back of the bus. Her subsequent arrest was the symbol the community needed, and the community was ready.
The call for a mass meeting went out to a community waiting for the right moment for action. The churches were quickly filled. The black people of Montgomery united in deciding to boycott the buses until the buses were desegregated. The only question that was unsettled was who should lead? Such an act of rebellion would gravely endanger the life of the leader. The traditional Montgomery leaders knew that they must take action, but it was daunting, and some power struggles interfered with pulling the group together. Great movements require a little luck, and good luck arrived. When the 50 church leaders met that day, they decided to turn to the new kid with a good reputation as an orator. They unanimously drafted Dr. King to lead their boycott. After a lifetime of preparation (getting ready), and after receiving his wife’s approval, Dr. King accepted leadership of the bus boycott. He then led the ready community into battle for desegregation on the national stage.
In another great moment in history, on April 18, 1775, Paul Revere made his celebrated ride to warn the Colonists that the British were sending an overwhelming force of 800 to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Paul Revere did not ride through the night to organize the Colonists: They had already organized in secrecy. The Sons of Liberty knew that any one of them who stood up to the British royalty would be hung. So, they had agreed that they needed to hang together, to be ready to mobilize their militia, and to take a stand. Their muskets and powder horns were by the door. Paul Revere and two others rode through the night pounding on doors to wake the Minute Men. The awakened Minute Men woke the rest of the community, and the American Revolution began.
Thanks to the wisdom of our founding forefathers, we no longer need our muskets nor do we need to fear being hanged: We have the ability to partially overthrow the government every two years and completely overthrow it every four years. We can go to the ballot in Colorado every year and the citizens can create change.
We cannot wait until the Ballot Initiative is written. In our movement for universal health care, we need to get Coloradans ready. The parallels to American Revolution are several. Coloradans are oppressed and trapped in an unfair and unjustly expensive health insurance system. The current system was designed in Washington under the heavy influence of powerful lobbyists, and it needs to be overthrown. Individuals are deprived of health care one at a time, and almost everyone is overcharged.
The Colorado Health Care Cooperative is a just cause, one worth hanging together for and taking a stand. It is good for the pocket books, health, and life of the vast majority of residents, providers, and employers in Colorado. When our supporters want to know how they can help, we need to tell them to get ready and be committed for when the moment is right, and the call goes out in the night. We need to gather signatures, distribute literature, contact our friends, contact people we do not know, volunteer at local Campaign offices, and raise funds. We need to ask everyone to commit to being ready.
I, Ivan J. Miller, give permission for this article to be photocopied, copied electronically, or copied in print as long as it is copied in its entirety and authorship is acknowledged. I also give permission to others to freely use the ideas in this article, quotes, and the stories of Dr. King and Paul Revere in their own work. This article is available in PDF at: