1968 was watershed year

To the editor:

The year 1968 offers a wonderful opportunity for students and teachers to learn about our nation?s history and cultural heritage. Every teacher - history teachers in particular - should consider the ways in which 1968 changed the course of our history - and how 1968 has influenced and will continue to influence our culture.

1968 saw the first black male champion of the U.S. Open, Arthur Ashe, a gentleman and a scholar as well as a world class athlete, who broke through at a momentous time. 1968 saw the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, whose legacy has done more to improve the lives of all Americans and more than almost anyone could have predicted 50 years ago.

He was not just about civil rights for African-Americans. He was about civil rights for every American. And his goal was to improve the lives of the poor and unemployed citizens of our country no matter what their race or background.

It is a reason for everyone to celebrate his life. He also had the moral courage to take a stand against the war in Vietnam, when virtually every other civil rights leader opposed that stand. He honored our soldiers but stood against the war.

1968 also saw the assassination of Robert Francis Kennedy - a man whose moral courage is still a beacon of hope for every American today. He bravely stood before our country and told the truth, knowing he would probably die for having done so. And with his example, we know the meaning of how the truth, even the hard truths, can lead us to be a better people, a better country and a true moral force for goodness in the world.

1968 saw the beginning of an era of change in the way women, homosexuals, handicapped and other oppressed citizens who were discriminated against in our nation were treated, not just blacks and other racial minorities.

There was also a breakthrough in facing environmental issues - very small at first - but beginning and growing stronger with students like Al Gore paying attention to their professors.

There is much to be proud of as well as we look back on the year 1968. There are many creative, positive and useful ways that this momentous year can be taught in our schools. I hope teachers and administrators will take the time to emphasize to our young people the greatness of that time. A time of turmoil and change no doubt but also a time of hope and courage that still influences every American today.

What unites us as Americans is and always will be stronger than what divides us. Studying our history and cultural heritage will help us live that truth for generations to come.


- Jim Turner, Fairfield


P.S. The documentary ?I Am MLK Jr? is an excellent resource for young students to learn about Dr. King.