Across the great divide

Reworking of an earlier blog of mine, marking the 50th Anniversaries of the deaths of Martin Luther King (4/4/68) and Robert F Kennedy (6/6/68)

Let’s be kinder to each other 

There is a striking memorial in a park in Indianapolis.  It marks the spot where, in April 1968, Robert Kennedy told a waiting crowd that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed, before speaking from the heart and his own personal experience, that violence is never an answer to our grievances.  His calming words quelled the rioting that other cities endured in the days after Dr King’s death and, arguably, saved some lives that night.


The memorial itself is an arresting work of art.  Made from corten steel and bronze it depicts Kennedy and King, on either side of a path, as figures reaching out towards each other in a gesture of solidarity.  Each man appears to break free from the steel slabs that would constrain them, tearing themselves from the fabric to reach out to each other across the dividing pathway.  In doing so, each leaves behind a perfect silhouette that reaches down to greet the viewer, from either direction.


My favourite photo shows a group of young people, of mixed race, looking up towards those two giant figures of the 20th century, with faces full of wonder, and hope.  It is that hope and wonder we must carry forward into our communities, our networks and our relationships today.


The last couple of years have presented us with enormous challenges. Many of us feel bewildered by recent events, wondering what the future holds.  We appear as polarised as we have ever been.  Social-political events have shown us how easy it is to turn the clock back, to return to a less enlightened age; an age of intolerance, anger, fear, cynicism and division.  I wonder what Senator Kennedy and Dr King, two men whose backgrounds could not have been more different, would make of this today, 50 years after each was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet.


It is an easy thing to remain welded to the steel slab of our own self-righteousness.  It is comforting to shout into the echo chamber of our own belief systems.  It is convenient to turn our backs or withhold the hand of conciliation.


Yet none of this will help us in our current predicament.


My fervent hope continues; that we display more ‘grace’ as a society, that we become more tolerant and exercise much more restraint in how we communicate with each other.  And … be just a bit kinder.


How do we do that?


Well, we can start by exercising critical reasoning and resume acceptable levels of discourse.  We can choose not to accept things as fact simply because they concur with our own beliefs.  We can think and speak with fairness and humility.  We can listen to others fully and seek to understand before we respond.  We can, and this may stretch us, countenance the notion that we may not have all the answers and that others may indeed have a point.  We can and must however, seek the truth and hold others to account in doing so.


I return to those giant figures, both heroes of mine.  I recall the time I stood at the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr King was shot, and the feeling of loss I felt as I listened to the voice of Mahalia Jackson soar through the air.  I remember too, as a young boy, witnessing the righteous anger of my late father as he read the morning paper carrying the news that Bobby Kennedy lay fatally wounded.


Yet, I look at the photo of that memorial in Indianapolis and think not so much about what might have been but what can still be.


If we choose to make it so.


I leave you with the words of the good doctor and the fine young senator who had the courage to reach out across those things that might divide us.


‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ 

Martin Luther King


‘Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.’

Robert F Kennedy



John Drysdale


A bit about the blogger:

I am a trainer, facilitator, speaker and coach, a sometimes runner, writer and musician.  I feel very fortunate in what I do as I get to work with great people from all walks of life, it’s a continual inspiration and I’m happy to play even a small part in the success of others.  You can find out more about my company at  or view our suite of online courses at .   I am also one of the Asentiv Merseyside team, dedicated to helping others lead a spectacular life and amazing businesses through the quality of their relationships.  Contact me at 



Posted by John Drysdale
3rd January 2017
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