What’s the vision?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

To the Editor:

We are all observers as we transit through life. Our perspective of what we see is influenced by our life experiences; and the people, places and things we encounter as we make this journey.

So, based on my perspective, I am now inclined to make the following observation.

As one of the many who participated in the civil rights movement and made the historic march to Montgomery, I was truly inspired by the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. What I found truly significant about his approach, was his ability to make his message inclusive of all people, regardless of the color of ones skin. His message was universal as evidenced by the many peoples and groups, from around the world, who lent their support, time, money and in some cases even their lives to make this dynamic and dramatic movement one of the pivotal events in recorded history, which in fact continues to this day. Everybody likes to ride a winning horse. Unfortunately for the movement, the people who have picked up the mantle of the “cause” on behalf of the people, seem to somewhat remember the message but they forgot one thing; “the people.”

His was a special voice. I vividly remember his many orations, both in person at Brown’s Chapel and in the media.

I also remember when he died: April 4, 1968. I was 19 years old, a young airman stationed at Bien Hoa AB, Republic of Vietnam.

But that’s another story for another time, Where were you in 1968 on that fateful day? It was one heck of a year. We also lost Bobby Kennedy shortly thereafter. Malcolm X was already gone. They were all very special voices for their time. All of these men possessed some very special traits that are true signs of leadership. There voices spoke with truth, honesty, integrity and a “true” sense of justice. They all had character: they were all humble men. That is what made them great. Their voices were silenced way too soon. They spoke “of the people, by the people and for the people;” sound familiar?

They all “talked the talk” and “walked the walk.” They inspired “the people.” And they were also something else too: they were revolutionaries. They all fought oppression and injustice.

As a society of many different colors, we have not had a true voice for any of “the people” since that dreadful year.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white. Leadership of any kind seems to be missing at every level since that time. Leadership is exemplified by wisdom, truth, honesty, integrity, character, dignity, fairness and justice, just to name a few of the special traits it takes to be a leader. Unfortunately, our current leadership does not appear to possess any of these traits.

We’ve got a lot of leaders “talking the talk,” but I cannot truthfully say I’ve seen anyone truly “walking the walk.”

I am not implying that such a leader does not exist: I’m just saying I ain’t heard him or her yet.

Position or elected office does not bestow leadership. Leadership is earned through one’s behavior, character and actions. And if one is to “follow the leader,” one must be able to “trust” the leader.

Leadership today is replete with greed, dishonesty, selfishness, guile and betrayal: just to name a few of these new attributes.

The American Indian had an appropriate term, which applies to this new leadership: “they speak with forked tongue.”

George Orwell described it as “double speak” in the book “1984.”

Thomas E. Towns Jr. SMSGT

USAF Selma