"I Tried to Be a Good Man"

by Trent Gilliss, online editor

One of the more fabulous aspects of working at SOF is being surrounded by a crazy number of talented people from other other regional and national programs that are part of our parent company, American Public Media (if you’d like, I can try to explain the complexity of the public radio world and distributors some time). I’m overwhelmed by the wide array of topics and material being produced and, unfortunately, never get to hear.

Our colleagues next door at American RadioWorks just released a riveting documentary about the last year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. As a bonus, the executive editor Stephen Smith presented a live performance for his colleagues — a 35-minute pictorial narrative he had given at a commemorative event in historic Riverside Church in New York.

It’s not often that our topic area overlaps so overtly with our next-door neighbors’ material. In this case, King’s religious and moral language wasn’t ignored or minimized for the political, the historical, the newsiness of it all. It wasn’t an anecdote. Sitting in a small crowd of 50 with my colleagues, I was engaged from the first photo, an image of King preaching with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel sitting in the background.

I was overtaken by his recorded words from a sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1968, shortly before his assassination. I had never heard King like that before.

King’s context was the 60s and civil rights. His legacy today is more than that. His ability is to relate to one’s personal failures and struggles and say, “It’s alright. Keep on trying.” As a husband and a father and a journalist, “I want to be a good man.”

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