“It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”

“Martin Luther King Jr. has now been dead longer than he lived. But what an extraordinary life it was.

At 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.” from the Seattle Times

I was in high school when I began to notice the world around me in a different way. All of a sudden it was far bigger than my small town. Back then I didn’t know a single Black person. There were none where I grew up, but a parish priest began to open our eyes and through him we met Black teenagers from Boston. Through them I became aware of social inequities, of Jim Crow and of the struggles of Blacks to register to vote. My friends and I were too young to go South, to march or register voters, but we were more than willing to do small tasks for even they had impact. We worked with snick, SNCC, going door to door to raise money. We attended NAACP meetings and passed out pamphlets. We did what we could.

Without realizing it, I had developed a social conscience which would forever be part of my life. It helped define what the 60’s meant to me. During college, I picketed and marched for a variety of causes I had come to believe in. I joined the Peace Corps, my recognition that we all have a responsibility to make this world a better place. I still feel the same way especially about my small town.

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4 Comments on ““It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.””

  1. Bob Says:

    Thanks Kat for that wonderful post.

    I lived in the segregated south from the age of six until thirteen. I didn’t pay much attention to the Jimm Crow laws or the fact that I never went to school nor knew any black people, except our cleaning lady, until I moved to New York City. Jews in the South during segregation maintained a low profile trying to remain invisible to the bigoted majority. When I was six a neighbor asked me if I had them removed. When I asked what he meant, he replied ‘your horns’. He was very serious. The KKK had a pecking order of hate, blacks, Jews then Catholics.

    While in high school I began to befriend kids from other countries, races and religions and my horizons expanded. In College I developed a social conscience as well as becoming an anti Vietnam war activist. I was fortunate to not be drafted and escaped the war by dropping out of school and entering the first draft lottery. I drew a good number. Over the years I have learned to understand the true meaning of Dr. king’s I have a dream speech. Race is just a pigment of your imagination.

    Last night my daughter and I went out for dinner at a Chili’s and I smiled as I watched Blacks sharing the dinning room and bar and being treated like everyone else. That wasn’t possible or legal in Texas in my lifetime. Dr. King and the Civil rights movement partially succeeded. Now the bigots only have Muslims and LBGT communities to hate. The forces of bigotry and hate are still with us they are just PC in public.

    Take a look today at http://www.apple.com

    • Thanks for the kind words, Bob

      Living in a small northern town meant I had no idea of racial inequality. When I was three, my mother said I saw my first Black woman in a store and asked her why she was chocolate. She went crazy and called us bigots and even uglier terms. I was three and had no idea that what I said was so inflammatory.

      I understand your lying low in the south. My town had a synagogue built around 1960. That was when there were enough Jews for the congregation, and I didn’t know anyone in town who objected or had comments about Jews.

      My experiences in high school opened my eyes, and they stayed open.

      Living in Africa made me the minority, and I was a curiosity for many young Ghanaians who had seen few white people. They would stand around me and stare. It was weird and funny at the same time.

      I think many people need someone to hate. I don’t know why. They paint the broadest brush and hate indiscriminately. They hate all Arabs, all Muslims, all Blacks, all Jews and on and on.

  2. t gibons Says:


    I loved Rin Tin Tin. He and his human coharts from the Disney TV show visited my home town Eugene for Oregon’s statehood Centennial. As a child in love with dogs horses and the West the parade was fantastic. And Rin Tin Tin the highlight. I fell in love with German Shepherds then.

    In the early 1960s I watched TV as police turned German Shepherds onto people—Black people—–snarling and biting. I could not make sense of my Rin Tin Tin doing such cruel things to people. It was the whites who trained the dogs to be so mean. Something was wrong. At 8 years of age I recognised injustice. Although I couldn’t label it.

    That is when my social awareness began.

    I’m raising a shepherd puppy right now. He’s awesome! And he doesn’t care what color you are.

    • Hi t,
      I loved Rin Tin Tin as well. I wanted all my dogs to respond to commands the way Rinty did.”At ease, Rinty!”

      I remember those dogs pulling at their leashes and standing almost straight up on their hind legs trying to get at the walking crowd. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The dogs, the fire hoses, all of it was so inhumane though I don’t know the words then, only the feelings.

      My cousin has two German shepherds, the loves of her life.

      Have fun with your puppy!!

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