An elderly man wakes up one Monday morning and remembers something he planned to do a long time before. He puts on a winter jacket and a grey cloth cap. Like he used to do, he stops at the hallway mirror, looks at his reflection, and sets the cap at a jaunty angle. That's more like it, he thinks, and chuckles, raising one eyebrow as he recognises the face staring back at him. The one who, with the confidence of a younger man, set out to do this same thing 40 years ago.
His children and grandchildren came by yesterday to see off their grandpa. They are not here right now on this cold icy morning as he opens the front door and steps off the porch - but the old man knows that they will be waiting for him somewhere in the center of Petersburg, ready to join him for the first stretch of his journey, and they won't be the only ones. As the journey contines, more and more will join him for a time, and others will converge on his destination by different routes leading from across the nation. This time.
The first time, 40 years ago, the journey ended before it began. They were waiting for a good friend, but he couldn't make it. Someone made sure of that. The old man thinks about him for a moment. It is his birthday soon, he'd like that, he muses.
The old man takes one last look up at the house, and thinks upon the number on the door. 244 is sure a lot less than 65000, and it's a long walk to DC. But you do it one step at a time, Carl Winfield reminds himself, like we did all those times before. He steps out onto the frosty sidewalk and the crisp crystals crunch beneath his feet, announcing the first step. At times it feels like he is going to fall, but neighbors are coming out now to see him alright. I'm going to see the President, no matter what it takes, he laughs!
The Staple Singers - Long Walk To DC (Stax 1968)
To everybody setting out for Atlanta this Martin Luther King Day or for Washington for Inauguration Day, I hope that it proves to be an unforgettable moment in your life and the life of your Nation! Happy Birthday Dr King, and Godspeed President Obama!