Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"You May Do That"

How many people in the course of their life actually make a dramatic difference in the world in which they live? And do so with one monumental action? Think about it. One act, one time that altered the course of history.

The answer is very few. Very, very few. One who did and ignited a movement that changed the face of the world passed from labor to reward on Monday night. Rosa Parks, often called the "mother of the civil rights movement" changed the course of America by saying, when threatened with arrest for failing to move to the back of the bus, "[y]ou may do that."

Nearly 50 years ago on December 1, 1955 the unassuming Sunday School teacher and seamstress boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and sat down. Moments later a white man asked her to give up that seat and move to the back of the bus so he could sit down. She quietly refused, was arrested and four days later was convicted of violating segregation laws and fined $10 plus $4 in court cost.

Her refusal and conviction led to a year long boycott of the Montgomery bus system conducted by a young minister very few people had every heard of, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Parks' sole action on that day sparked a non-violent revolution that resulted in dramatic changes to the Jim Crow laws and statutes of America. That lone action also impacted South Africa's monumental retreat from apartheid and the unthinkable non-violent uprising in Tiananmen Square in China three and a half decades later.

That single event and moment of courage became a 381 day boycott, which resulted in a transformed America and transformed world. A country and a world that are not perfect or complete, but a better country and a better world nonetheless all because a young woman said "[y]ou may do that." Well done our good, faithful and courageous servant.