8/16/11 to 8/19/11
Throughout the 257 mile drive from Savannah to Atlanta, I was super excited to be going to a city of my heroes.
My first hero is Laura, a friend of mine from high school who allowed me to stay at her home in Atlanta. Laura is a free spirit who follows her convictions and intuitions. I admire and support that so much. She is a raw foods chef who is in the process of starting her own catering truck business. She believes in the healing power of raw food and the messages delivered through angel numbers. On a silly, personal level about my history with Laura, she is the first person I ever sang to. I was always very insecure about my singing voice, but loved to sing. I sat next to Laura on a bus (I think to Sea World our senior year in high school) and sang to her a song I wrote. I was so scared, and she was so gracious. It was the first time my voice was allowed to flow naturally and since then, I have been open to singing in front of people. I love Laura for who
Billy, Laura and I
In the lobby of Mary Mac's Tea House
she is and who she has allowed me to be.
My first day in Atlanta, Laura and I had the perfect day. We did nothing touristy, but instead enjoyed our friendship. We went to a mall and tried on shoes and hats. We stopped by The Body Shop and Whole foods to nourish our skin and spirit. We spent hours inside a Borders at their going-out-of-business sale. Later, we went out with some of her friends, and I also met new friends. What a perfect day.
The next day, we connected with Billy, my former partner (2001-2008), and now good friend. He works for United and, what luck, had a layover in Atlanta. We have always had a fun time exploring the world and laughing together. He was with me during the most difficult time of my life and allowed me to cry, scream, emote and evolve as I needed to. For that I am eternally grateful. Laura, Billy and I connected and decided to find the best Southern cooking in the city. We ended up at Mary Mac’s Tea House, one of the most famed restaurants in the city. It was here I decided I cannot maintain
Martin Luther King, Jr and Coretta Scott King
Final Resting place in the Pool of Reflections at King Center
my diet on this trip. Between the three of us, we ate: baked and fried chicken, salmon croquettes, fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, sweet potato soufflé, cucumber-onion salad, veggie-cheese soufflé, peach cobbler, bread pudding and peanut butter pie. All that for less than $50!!! A cheap way to die—especially for raw food Laura!
I also visited the King center, the memorial and final resting place of one of my biggest heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The King Center is an immense complex in Dr. King’s old neighborhood, “Sweet Auburn.” It includes a series of museums/exhibits, his childhood home, King’s Ebenezer church and his final resting place. I spent hours touring the many exhibits featuring: Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Coretta King, segregation, and of course the life of MLK. At some point during the day, I realized I was the only white visitor in the whole center. This surprised me.
I first paid respect to Dr. King at his tomb. It is outside in the middle of a reflection pool. It is hard to believe he was only a year-and-a-half older than me when he was killed. It is even harder to believe that he began his courageous
Outside Ebenezer Church
MLK's church in Sweet Auburn neighborhood and home of the SCLC
stand for civil rights when he was only 26 years old. What a short, but amazing life.
Next, I visited the Ebenezer church where King, along with his father, was a minister. Audio recordings of MLK preaching were piped into the sanctuary and it felt like I was hearing him real time. The civil rights movement really originated in the black churches, and this was the mothership. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was born at Ebenezer church and, with King as its president, was the leadership that furthered the movement.
I spent most of my time in the MLK museum. I learned about his parents, who instilled in young Martin that segregation was wrong, rather than just being the way it is. They even had their children birthed at home because they did not want their children to enter the world in a segregated hospital. Each section of the museum showcased articles, and stories about MLK’s life and the progress and setbacks in the struggle for civil rights. When available, there were audio and video presentations in the related areas. I must have spent three hours here, reading and listening to every word. The final room housed the
Inside the King Center
The mule cart that carried King's coffin
mule cart that carried King’s coffin during his funeral procession. It dawned on me that this was the first time I had seen footage of this, and now I was standing in front of an artifact from that piece of history. Wow.
To wrap up my day at the King Center, I visited the birthplace of MLK and his home for the first ten years of his life. It was a humble Queen Anne Victorian House in the neighborhood King affectionately called “Sweet Auburn.” I loved being there and seeing where he walked and played, where his family ate and went about their daily lives. The thought that kept reoccurring in my head was how Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man I would have liked to have met. Now, I can say I have been in his house, so I guess that kind of makes us friends.
On this trip across America, I have seen where King was born, where he died and where he is laid to rest. What a glorious feat. I am honored to have been able to pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. in this way.
The final hero I was
Outside MLK's home
King was born here and lived in this house until he was 12.
able to celebrate was former president Jimmy Carter. To me, Carter is a man with honesty, integrity and compassion. I feel like he was one of the last respectable politicians, which, sad to say, didn’t help him much in American politics. On the other hand, what he has done as a humanitarian is astounding. His presidential library did a pretty good job capturing the ups and downs of his political career, as well as the work he and Rosalynn have done since leaving the White House.
The library starts off with a section about his early life in Georgia. It was simple and homespun, focusing on the family peanut farm, his love for his wife, his faith in God and his moral values. The next section highlights his successful career in the Navy and his education relating to energy and engineering. When I learned about his education, I thought back to my first memories about Jimmy Carter. My family mocked him, even had a giant dart board of him with his head in the shape of a peanut. I wonder if they were aware of his level of intelligence, or just blinded by their preconceived notions of him being
Painting of Jimmy Carter
Look closely...It is interesting how he is made up of all that represents America
a farmer and country bumpkin.
I also learned that Jimmy Carter first ran for public office in Georgia because he opposed the governor’s attempts to fight integration by shutting down public schools. Carter’s first friends were black, and he never understood segregation. His major platform in state office was integration and equality.
When Carter won the presidency, he was a Washington outsider. This didn’t help him much in American politics. He also had strong moral convictions and didn’t care to work with governments he considered brutal or immoral. His Human Rights policy angered a lot of our frenemies and didn’t help him politically, especially considering how many of these governments controlled American access to oil. In many ways, Carter was in over his head. I think it’s come to the point in politics that nice guys finish last.
One section of the museum discussed Carter’s creation of the Department of Energy. In this regard, he was a visionary. I feel if we would have followed Carter’s energy plan, we would not be reliant upon other countries for oil and gas; wouldn’t be involved with Iraq or the Middle East. Big oil is a difficult political enemy.
Achievements of Jimmy Carter
While he was president (1977 to 1981)
The two other sections of the museum I found most interesting had to do with the Middle East. Carter’s biggest success as president was his involvement in mediating a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The section about the Camp David Accords provided a behind the scenes look at the daily tensions and eventual success of this monumental event. The other section, the Iran hostage crisis, is often seen as Carter’s biggest setback. There were interviews with Carter about his thinking during this saga which taught me a lot about his choices during this time. He really was walking a tightrope, trying not to risk the lives of the captured Americans. I didn’t know it was Carter who arranged their release, or that he knew they were returning home on the day he would turn the presidency over to Ronald Reagan. He says it was the happiest day of his life when all the hostages returned home safely, even though he had lost the presidential election.
The final part of the Carter Center Museum talked about the humanitarian efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Carter. The purpose of the center is to wage peace, fight disease and build hope. The
Me, Shirley and Baby Caleb
in Alpharetta (a suburb outside of Atlanta)
Carters have traveled extensively to other countries to help establish free elections, and work towards peace and basic human rights. Additionally, Rosalynn has devoted a lot of her time to raise awareness and support for mental health issues. It is these types of actions that I believe heroes are made of.
I ended my time in the Atlanta area by stopping for lunch in Alpharetta, a suburb of Atlanta. A former colleague of mine recently moved here. When I last saw Shirley, she was pregnant. On this lunch visit, I was able to meet her four-month-old son, Caleb. I can tell Shirley is a good mom. She says it’s a lot of work, but she seems to be handling it well. To me, a good mom is one of the most important and unsung heroes in America today.
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