My Turn: On Wednesday, let freedom ring
Three p.m. on Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The current issue of Time magazine anoints King as a founding father and cites the “Dream” speech as a pivotal moment of the 20th century.
Some of us remember that hot August day when Washington prepared for a riot and received a Sunday school picnic atmosphere with songs and cheers for the recently police-beaten marchers from Greenville, S.C. King departed from his text to a familiar theme, spanning the country beginning with, “From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring.”
King’s biblical roots and preaching power inspired congregations to move effectively toward resolving long-standing civil rights abuses. Clergy and lay folk, rabbis and priests supported the extraordinary nonviolent challenges which led to the legislation of 1964 and 1965.
The impact of their mainline religious communities’ influence was reflected in segregationist Sen. Richard Russell’s complaint that “the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed only because those damn preachers got the idea that it was a moral issue.”
The New Hampshire Council of Churches has notified every religious congregation in the state to encourage a solemn, joyful moment – “Let Freedom Ring” at 3 p.m. Wednesday – by ringing bells (steeple or hand-held) for three minutes.
The council is joined by the New Hampshire Humanities Council, American Friends Service Committee and the Common Man restaurants.
Thus far I know the bells will ring from Star Island to Lebanon, and from Keene to the summit of Mount Washington where the Appalachian Mountain Club hut people, together with Scott and Natt King – stone masons from the Lakes Region – will ring bells. During the bicentennial year, Scott King walked across the country, so it is fitting that he rings a bell from the most prodigious summit in New Hampshire. Other celebrations will take place in front of the State House in Concord and on the town common in Plymouth.
Congregations are encouraged to plan their appropriate moments and register their support by emailing LetFreedomRing@thecman.com. There are many moral issues to be confronted here in our state, and congregations should be proud of the past and preparing for the future. Let Freedom Ring!
(Rev. Sid Lovett is a Democratic state representative from Holderness.)