Friday, October 12, 2007

"Been to the Mountaintop"

Just before his death in 1968, Martin Luther King preached what would be a prophetic sermon. As he reflected on the years of civil rights movement, he had come to realize that he had "been to the mountaintop" and that he "had seen the promised land." Sadly, prophetically, he then proclaimed that he "may not get there with you..."

One day later he was dead.

We walked today in the places he once walked. We sat in the pews of the church he preached in. We were in the very room in which he called for the formation of a city wide bus boycott in Montgomery, a civil disobedience that would help to change the civic behavior of the nation. We stood for a photo on the front steps of his church, one block from the Alabama State Capitol on whose steps Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America in 1861.

This was one day of living!

32 kids from a suburban high school in California came face to face with the man whose name is that school. 3000 miles away from the familiarity of Martin Luther King High, we found ourselves introduced to the Martin Luther King of history. Today we found that his was not just a name painted on stucco and printed on letterhead. His was a name that is carved into the conscience of our nation. From the humblest of beginnings, he mustered his courage, gathered himself and took a place on the starting line of what would become one of the greatest races ever contested on American soil. With the sweat of conviction, the heart of compassion, the power of love, and the focus of a warrior, he won the race.

And we were there today, at the starting line. It felt like a mountain top.

What an amazing experience it was! Our cross country kids were ambassadors of a school from across the country ... and they nailed it! Attentive, respectful, inquisitive and responsive, they listened and learned through an amazing multi-media presentation at the Rosa Parks Institute and Museum. From there we loaded the vans and made the short drive to King's church.

Dexter Avenue is only a few blocks away. On the way up the broad avenue, our kids looked out the windows of the van as we passed a large fountain at one end of the street, a marker of where they once auctioned black slaves. Quickly coming into view at the other end is that gleaming capitol building, a marker of secession; it's white dome towers. Bookends of hatred and injustice.

But there in the middle of the two stands a Baptist church, it's skin is colored red, it's name shares it's street address. It seems inconspicuous at first, as most churches seemingly do. It appears humble and non-descript. But as we walked in those doors, we heard the story of a preacher man who roared the gospel of Love, courage, forgiveness, redemption and justice. His was the ultimate tough love story; of good overcoming evil with good. Those worn pews and walls whispered the aged truths of the Bible: "Love your enemy" "do good to those who persecute you" and "turn the other cheek". Like the best book on the shelf, Dexter Baptist stands between black and white, its red-colored cover begging to be opened and read. It stands: Bookends not necessary.

We lingered. We listened. We learned .... we, King High.


  1. We knew of your enthusiasm for running, Coach, but it wasn't until this post that we realized your great love of history as well. MLK comes alive once again in your words of praise; his sense of committment to a goal greater than himself is evident in all you describe. The cc kids from "the school in the California desert" are lucky to experience not only these scenes of historical importance, but your own unique passion for what they all mean now.

  2. wow, these kids should be very proud to have a coach like you not only do you give to them as a coach but as a man who deeply cares about their lives and the things that they will cherish for a lifetime. thank you for beigh so supportive of them and for teaching them a bit of history

  3. coach peters, wow what a great adventure you have led our kids to. they will never forget it. oh, by the way, your kids back here in the desert are working hard saw them running thursday and friday

  4. I've just read your blog, and I must say I am impressed. I wish I had the opportunity to experience firsthand the spots where monumental history was taking place. I feel as a nation, we have finally started to embrace the teachings of King, Gandi, and other preachers of liberty. King had the right idea when he emphasized open, peaceful resistance, while he was imprisoned in Birmingham. Best of luck to you for the rest of the year.


  5. Mr. Peters, I am truely moved by this blog that you created. I have knwon from the moment that I entered your classroom on the first day of school that you have a very unique interest in the subject oh history. This blog, however, really does take the cake. When looking back on this experience that you had the opportunity of having we look back on the overwhelming importance of civil disobedience in the form of nonviolent resistance. Like King Jr. we must remember that nonviolent resistance can go a long way and that one person can truely make a differnce.