Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 4, 2013

Two steps toward civil discourse


— Here in early September I’d like to express appreciation for two contributions The News made in August to civil discourse regarding racial issues: your Aug. 4 editorial “School board drops the ball” and your Aug. 28 transcript of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In the former, you rightly stated that the Redskins name is offensive in Goshen’s public schools — and that the school board would do well to take the issue more seriously. I hereby add my voice to those calling for a study committee on the matter.

As for the latter, you gave the community a great gift in printing the entire text of Dr. King’s speech. He made some powerful points even before launching into the extemporaneous “dream” portion of his August 1963 address at the Lincoln Memorial.

On Easter Sunday of 1939, Marian Anderson (at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt) sang on the steps of that same Lincoln Memorial after she was denied permission to perform at Washington’s Constitution Hall, which was operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Of Anderson, famed conductor Arturo Toscanini had said a voice like hers “comes along only once every 100 years.”

Though in 2013 we in Goshen may shake our heads at the DAR’s 1939 discrimination, 19 years later the world’s greatest contralto was denied hotel accommodations in Goshen because of the city’s “sundown law” tradition. After her acclaimed performance at Goshen College in 1958, Anderson needed to stay at the Hotel Elkhart.

Goshen has come a long way since 1958 in accepting and even embracing diversity, but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Thank you again, Goshen News.

— Dan Shenk

Goshen