From anger to pride, deep emotions are surfacing in this wild political season. One story sticks in my mind. That of a movie theater ticket taker in Xenia, Ohio, telling two black college students that the place was closed. Now 88 years old, P.T. Chochran told New York Times columnist Bob Herbert that he and his friend refused to leave the line until they were allowed inside. As long as they stood in line, the man wouldn’t let anyone in. What happened next is a reminder of how strangers can bring out the best in each other.
Wrote Bob Herbert:
“They stood there for six hours. Then they called the school and let other friends know what they were doing. The students at (black) Wilberforce College alerted white students at nearby Antioch College.
Students from both schools turned out in force — more than 100 of them — to support Mr. Cochran and his friend. “They all stood there with us, to back us up,” said Mr. Cochran. At that point, his voice broke, and he wept softly at the memory from 64 years ago.
‘We stayed there until the theater closed that night,’ said Mr. Cochran. ‘And then we came back the next day, which was Sunday, and stood there until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, when they finally decided to let us in.
‘I’ll never forget what those kids did for us.’
Mr. Cochran said it would take an hour, ‘maybe more,’ to describe how much Senator Obama’s candidacy meant to him. ‘I am elated,” he said. ‘I’m surprised, I—”
His voice broke once again. His tears, and those of so many others, were a measure of the enormity of what had come to pass.”
Times have changed. Xenia now calls itself “the city of hospitality.”
Every day we encounter situations where our words and actions can bring out the worst side in others or the best. In Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, my favorite part was his characterization of the side that Martin Luther King choose to address at the march in Washington D.C.
Obama said “The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustrations of so many dreams deferred.
But what the people heard instead — people of every creed and color, from every walk of life — is that, in America, our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one. ??”We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”