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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2008 Donald E. Lindman
660 words


By: Don Lindman

Great men (and perhaps women as well) often have feet of clay—faults of which neither we nor they are proud and which threaten to tarnish their memory.

There are biblical personages like King David, a womanizer; and Saul of Tarsus (who became St. Paul, the Apostle), an accessory to murder many times over. More current historical figures include Sir Winston Churchill, a racist; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who to further his desire to get the United States into World War II may have failed to act on information that Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked; and Martin Luther King, Jr., who reputedly was a womanizer.

King, whose birthday we celebrate on January 21, was a great man. He exposed one of America’s ugliest sins—its treatment of African-Americans—and rallied an entire racial group to stand up for its own dignity and freedom.

He emboldened others so that they later took leadership of this cause. Millions of black Americans see themselves with a sense of self-respect and pride that they would never had experienced were it not for Dr. King.

King and other great human beings also have feet of clay, which is not so much to their dishonor as it is a lesson to the rest of us. They were and are human beings. Their very greatness exaggerates their character flaws, faults that in ordinary people would be acknowledged with a shrug and then forgotten.

Flawed people can aspire to and achieve greatness. Moral shortcomings need not keep a person from being morally great in other areas of life.

Churchill held the Allied nations together during that war until the United States was able to mobilize its overwhelming industrial and military might in the cause of freedom. Roosevelt realized that without the all-out participation of his reluctant and isolationist nation the war against Axis tyranny could never be won, and he led that mobilization effort.

Dr. King gave us a huge jump-start in the direction of racial justice and equality, but we have a long way to go. Almost every African-American adult I know has stories of personal fear and discrimination unlike any experiences I’ve ever had.

This is true for other societal groups as well. Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Asians and Hispanics experience entirely too much prejudice in this nation that calls out in New York Harbor, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

And don’t forget the women. While they are coming close to gaining equality in politics, there are vocations like the clergy, medicine, and mechanical and technical fields where they are treated as if they don’t really belong.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” wrote St. Paul. Today I believe he would use different terms, but the categories—ethnicity, economic position, gender—all are there.

On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, birthday we do well to celebrate how far we’ve come and the life of the man who first led the way. But we should also let it serve as a reminder that there is a lot of work still to be done, and it must start in each one of us. When that happens we truly will be a nation of justice and equality.


"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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