Saturday's circus clearly lacked the discipline, focus and sophistication of Martin Luther King and the leaders who suffered with him in 1963. Even Rep. Lewis noted that, in bringing hundreds of thousands to D.C. in that year, the organizers had no faxes, Internet or cell phones with which to communicate to potential supporters. Grass-roots efforts at that time started deep in the soul, and were carried out by endless hours of meetings, phone calls and shoe leather hitting the pavement.
So is this to say that all is well in America and those who gathered in Washington this past week gathered in vain? Certainly not. It might shock those who attended to know that many conservatives feel just as strongly about racial equality. But surely the organizers of that event recognize that their message was so disparate with regard to issues, while at the same time so unified in its partisanship, as to have denigrated the very memory of Dr. King's great achievement of 1963.
My best guess is that the degree of thought, effort and devotion to purpose put into this so-called 40th anniversary gathering lacked the grass-roots work and intense hours of true organizing that Lewis himself attributed to those heroes he recalled from days gone by. Although most would deny it, it must have been mighty disappointing to look out from the speaker's rostrum, over the mall, which 40 years earlier was a sea of humanity, and instead see mostly green grass.
And here's the kicker -- for all of the many vicious comments about President Bush and his administration uttered at the event, the organizers obviously don't recognize how the African-American public feels about black leaders. The same poll shows that African-American respondents felt that the most important leader of "the black community" today is none other than Secretary of State Colin Powell. But of course Powell wasn't a part of the 40-year celebration. His presence wouldn't have fit the agenda.