Running to remember

Published 7:49 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

On the day that Barack Obama’s election to the American presidency became official, Saul Lankster recalled a personally historic moment.

The Linden (Ala.) native Lankster, 63, proudly talked about his role in the civil rights movement and recalled a day in September 1963 when he was arrested for protesting in front of the Dallas County Courthouse. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who at that time was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, organized the protest.

During the protest, Lankster held a sign with the words “One man, one vote” as part of a demonstration.

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Today, Lankster is an adjunct professor of civil rights and law at California State University, Long Beach. His full-time job is a high school history teacher in Gardena, Calif.

Lankster said his students are just as aware of historic events 45 years ago as they are of the recent presidential election.

However, he fears they have missed the importance of everything in between.

“Some of my students say to me, ‘I’m glad, Mr. Lankster, that we have a black president now. It’s our turn,’” he said. “A lot of our young people are missing the message. I think the message is not that a black man or a mixed-race individual is elected president. The message is that America has grown up to a point where we won’t care about the color of the skin if you are the best qualified.”

On Monday, Lankster ran from the courthouse across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and back to the courthouse to commemorate his arrest and role in the struggle for voting rights. He runs 5Ks competitively and does sit-ups each morning — one for each birthday.

He found irony in picking Monday to run across the bridge, the site of the 1965 Bloody Sunday march.

“Barack Obama really wasn’t voted president until today,” Lankster said. “The electoral votes were cast today.”

Electoral college members from all 50 states and the District of Columbia cast electoral votes for president. The mostly ceremonial meeting was one of the final acts of the 2008 election.

Alabama’s Electoral College members met at noon Monday at the state Capitol to cast their nine votes for Republican Sen. John McCain for president and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for vice president.

Nationally, Obama won a projected 365 electoral votes, beating Republican opponent John McCain’s 173. Obama also won the popular vote on Nov. 4, taking 53 percent of the ballots cast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.