“One Day, Down In Alabama”


“Early evening, April 4, shot rang out in the Memphis sky …”

I was working as a substitute in a middle school one day in February, and the teacher, it being during Black History Month, had left an assignment for her students to read excerpts from Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The students, as students tend to do, were becoming more interested in talking to each other than in doing the assignment, so I asked if they would like me to read it to them.

I am, I should note, a decent reader.

They were enthralled. They’d probably never actually heard a recording of the speech, and you can tell that having the words actually come alive, actually be a speech, instead of just another reading assignment, let them feel the power and emotion of King’s words.

Unfortunately, their reaction caused me to get a little overconfident.

The excerpts in the book were good, but it left out some parts that I felt were worth including — the “Free at last” part, for example, and the titular “I have a dream” parts, particularly the “one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers” section.

So for the next period, I offered to read again, but this time, instead of reading the excerpts in their book, I looked up the full text online.

This was, arguably, a mistake.

I was able to keep the students enthralled with the excerpts, but the full speech proved to be too long for their attention span, and I had to balance trying to maintain discipline without losing the flow of the speech.

And, I’ll admit, at one point, it made me sad. I’m reading this historic speech to a very predominately African American classroom of students, and I’m having to deal with, for example, one student taking off his shoe and making another smell it as I’m trying to read. And it just seemed — disrespectful. Not to me, but to King, and his followers and peers who changed the nation. Show him the courtesy of listening to the words that helped change your life, you know?

But, then I wondered — what would he have thought? How would King have reacted to see African American students so disinterested in his fight? To be acting out in that way instead?

And, really, part of me wonders if maybe, just maybe, the fact that 49 years after he gave the speech it could be so taken for granted would bring him a little happiness. That maybe, just maybe, that’s kind of what he was trying to accomplish.

Brilliant Words for the New Year


“What About When Buildings Fall …”


I had planned to write my remembrances of 10 years ago today. But my memories don’t matter. It wasn’t about me. My experiences were only those of one American that day, and the important thing is not what we as individuals experienced, but we as a nation. That one day, we were one.

The Best of Huntsville, Alabama


My Huntsville picture post the other day was part of a blog carnival by local bloggers, titled “The Best of Huntsville, Alabama.” Go check it out!

Spacecraft Past, Spacecraft Future


So about two weeks ago, I went and gave a talk in Decatur. And it was fun.

The Friends of the Library group for the Decatur Public Library invited me to come talk about my book, Homesteading Space. Which, in large part, I did. However, I gave the short version of the Homesteading lecture that I put together when I spoke at the International Space Developers Conference earlier this year, and which turned out not to be all that short.

It was short enough, however, that I was able to use the audience as guinea pigs to update my talk a bit, jumping forward 40 years from Skylab to talk about the current and future state of human space exploration. As a member of the policy committee of the National Space Society, and just as someone who is passionate about spaceflight, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the topic of “now what,” and I now have a bit more freedom to discuss that openly than I have before.

What surprised me was how much fun it was. In retrospect, I just don’t have as many opportunities to have in-depth discussions about space as I used to, and I think I’m in a bit of withdrawal. I hadn’t been having a terribly good day, to be honest, before the talk, but I was in a great mood by the time I finished it. I’d gotten my fix.

Point of all of this being, I’ll be doing it again on Saturday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Davidson Center at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and I’ll have a few copies of the book to sign. And this time, I’ve actually practiced the new part of the talk, so it should be even better.

Join me, won’t you?

Just Write (via The Faery Inn)


If you write, read this.

All I really want to do everyday, at some point, is sit down and write. Why I feel this driving need to have something profound to say in every post is beyond me. I have read post after post, by good writers, to those of us working on it, that to be a good writer, I just need to write. A lot. Yes, May has been ridiculously busy for me, and I simply haven't had as much time. At the same time, I have figured out that I am a better person when I wri … Read More

via The Faery Inn

Take Time to Look Out the Window (via Calluna)


I wish I’d written this.

Take Time to Look Out the Window Astronaut Doug Wheelock gave a presentation at work this week about his time on the International Space Station and as the station's commander. He was a great story teller and had all kinds of humorous stories. But the thing that stood out most was his one regret. His only regret was the three or four days that he got too busy and forgot to look out the window. His advice that he had just told the current ISS crew prior to his presentation was "d … Read More

via Calluna

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