The Man Behind the Legend
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the men and women who make history are, first and foremost, just that: real people, minus the myth.
By Eugene S. Robinson
The problem with venerated figures is that in lionizing them and their accomplishments, we lose sight of the fact that these were real people. They lived real, recognizable lives before history and destiny thrust them into the light that would forever change how we saw them.
So it goes with Martin Luther King Jr.’s bow on Meet the Press in 1965. He was 36 years old on this day, a husband and a father to four small children, all under the age of 10, speaking to a panel of journalists voicing skepticism about the means and ends of the recent voting-rights marches in Selma, Alabama. Three short years later, he would be assassinated.
Absent a podium or lectern in this TV appearance, we see just a man in front of a mic talking to another man about the daily difficulties of his place in space. It’s not one of his historic speeches, not a studied delivery of elegant, moving arguments that hold us at rapt attention every time we hear them. Here he plainly defends the actions he and others took in reaction to what they’d seen and endured — the beatings, attacks, bombings and murders — all the gross injustices that compelled him to do something, anything, to change the country he called home.
Quiet, dignified, graceful — it’s compelling television, a scintillating performance, a moment where you get a glimpse of the man before history made him a myth.