Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Had A Dream, But Forgot To Write It Down...You Know How It Is... 

Hey! Hey! Look! Monday is a day off for some people! It's MLK day! Because I'm too lazy to write anything new pertaining to this holiday, I shall post a reworking, of sorts, of a post which first appeared on this blog way back in 2004. This very reworking was read almost word-for-word by Penn Jillette on his now defunct radio program. The actual text for your readin' pleasure follows, but for those of you who would prefer to be read to, you can hear Mr. Jillette's interpretation right here:
click here for the sounds, baby!
When I was in elementary school, leading up to the inaugural Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior holiday, all us school kids got some heavy book learnin' in about segregation, civil rights and many other facts (also: minutia) in regards to the life of Dr. King. In addition, in honor of the impending FIRST EVER official celebration of Dr. King's life and work, our school was to hold an assembly presentation, with us 6th graders doin' the bulk of the presentin' in question. Now, if you've never experienced an all-school assembly first hand, here's some quick background...All of the children who attended the school, along with all of the faculty and staff, would gather in the gymnasium/cafeteria and watch the "chosen ones" (in this case, us) put on whatever little show they (we) were supposed to...well..."put on." After that, there would usually be a "second performance" in the evening for all of the parents. This particular production was no exception. We all rehearsed songs and skits that, presumably, were designed to help us sixth-grade crackers give all of the younger crackers some insight into the life, death and accomplishments of Dr. King. The highlight of our little show was the closing which, it was decided, should be a live reading of Dr. King's (wildly popular) "I Have A Dream" speech.

Just so's you know, I'm really very "white." In fact, I bypass "milk bottle" and head straight for "total cracker," I'll readily admit that. This does not mean, however, that my schooling was void of diversity. On the contrary, I had a very "diverse" group of classmates, racially AND socio-economically. The community where I grew up is not far from a number of military bases and, as such, many different kids sporting many different backgrounds came and went while I was in school. There were numerous children of every imaginable ethnic heritage at the elementary school I attended. Getting down to brass tacks here, there were children at the school, in the same grade, of African-American descent available to read such a speech. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, it's simple, really...

In what can only be described as a stroke of (ignorant) brilliance, on what was supposed to be one of the most racially unifying days in American History, the teachers involved in putting the MLK Day assembly together tapped ME to read Dr. King's famous speech...

I am not kidding...

Obviously, I was flattered to have been chosen for such a responsibilty-laden assignment, but I couldn't help but be confused..."Why not John Parmalee or Edward? Why me?" I inquired. I was then told that, after much thought and consideration, I was chosen because I had the ability to (and I quote) "do all of those funny voices."

No shit..."Funny voices."

Let's put this into perspective, shall we? One of the most brilliant orators of the 20th century delivers an empassioned speech dealing with deep issues such as civil rights, equality and hope during a very tumultuous time in our history at great personal and professional risk to himself and I'm supposed to re-enact it on the FIRST EVER day officially set aside by our country to recognize his accomplishments because I can do "funny voices?" Apparently, I'm supposed to approach the "I Have A Dream" speech as if Dr. King were a cartoon character, how frickin' wrong is THAT? Regardless of the circumstances, the assignment was mine and "no" was not going to be accepted as an answer, so I took on the task of learning Dr. King's famous speech as best I could. During the assembly, I was to break into the speech directly following a song, performed by other members of my class. I was told by the music teacher that, if I missed my cue, there was potential to be drowned out by applause, so I HAD TO BE ALERT!...I COULD NOT MISS MY CUE!..

"Hell yeah," I thought, "I DAMN WELL better be alert"...It's not bad enough that some chubby little blond afro-headed kid was set to mimic the greatest civil rights leader in history, but what if, all of a sudden, people could be led to believe that I was merely hanging out at the front of the gym muttering to myself and disrupting the celebration?..The potential for disaster, I estimated, was very, very real. I rehearsed my part until I was sure that I had it down and then, just 'cause I was mortified, I rehearsed some more. I was going to be READY, dammit, regardless of how odd the whole thing seemed. Soon enough, the day of the assembly arrived. At the appointed hour, all of us whiteys took our respective places at the front of the cafeteria and set to the task of celebrating the life of Dr. King via skits and songs. While all of this was going on, there I stood at the front of the gym, paper in hand, ready to orate to the masses. I was dressed in my best slacks, a green polo shirt and my black "Members Only®" knockoff jacket, my hair having been recently and neatly "picked" into a wonderfully round yellowish cloud. Just as the song, the end of which was to be my cue, "ended" and before our audience could "applaud," I spoke, using the most authoritative tone that my 11 year old throat could muster...


As I delivered my adolescent version of one of the greatest speeches of all time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my preparation had not been in vain. The words flowed from my mouth with passion and inflection, in fact, I barely had to look at the words on the paper which I had been clenching so nervously in my hand the whole time. As I finished the speech, I felt very calm and very relieved. The other students clapped and cheered and it seemed that the whole assembly had been quite the success, as elementary school assemblies go...I now realize what an honor it was to have been chosen to read the speech, even if it was an obviously screwy thing to begin with. I had a job to do and I did it. As long as I live, I'll never forget that I had the privilege of being "King for a day."

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