Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.



In the winter of 1963, at a small boarding school for boys in rural Massachusetts, a visitor came for the weekend. He gave a talk on Friday evening, spent Saturday in class and at meals with the students, and preached on Sunday in the majestic stone chapel that dominates the campus. He started slowly, almost quietly, before falling into the rhythms and phrasing of his own Baptist tradition. He ignored whatever notes he had and became a vessel for his rich stentorian voice, which reverberated off the chapel walls and summoned the 200 boys to help build a just society. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr., and I had never heard anything like that sermon. There had been a handful of black students at the school since the early 1950s, which was unusual in itself, for most of us had grown up in a world in which Stepin Fetchit and Rastus were not so much vicious stereotypes as insidiously benign jokes. They were how we were taught to view a people about whose lives we knew nothing. A lot happened in 1963. King led the March on Washington that summer. President Kennedy was assassinated in November. Some say that marked the end of the dream. But I don’t think so. You can tell a lot about where people stand today by how they remember the 1960s. To me it was a time of hope and courage, of stirring calls to join hands across deep divides. A lot of people have tried to kill the dream and those who espouse it. They may yet succeed. But I believe that King’s vision, which calls us back to Lincoln’s vision at Gettysburg and Jefferson’s in Philadelphia, is the American Dream we must revive.