In 1967, when there were race riots in Detroit and Toledo, my hometown, I was 12. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in 1968. Chicago policemen clubbed protesters who chanted, “The whole world is watching” at the Democratic National convention in 1968.
In 1970, when Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students and injured nine others on the Kent State University campus, I was 15. Vietnam War protests took place across the country. Students took over college campus buildings. Protesters stormed government buildings. Thousands marched in the streets.
The civil rights movement and war protests shook our country. The old ways—from entrenched institutions like segregation to how political parties worked, and what we wanted from authorities like police—were under siege and crumbling. As a teenager, I felt the turbulence. Anything could happen. Was happening. Although I was against segregation and the Vietnam War, the violence associated with ending those ills scared me.
However, I sensed the dawning of a new era and was hopeful that real change, as well as peace and justice, were possible.
Today, I have the same sense. Once again our country, and indeed, the Western world (Great Britain’s Brexit and the European union’s struggles with immigration and identity) is at a crossroads.
No matter what, change is gonna come. 10 years from now, our country is going to be different.
Decades have passed since I was a teenager who was bewildered by events and worried about our future. Today, I still worry about where our country is headed, and I don’t know what the coming changes will look like, but I’m hopeful.
I believe that people of good faith will work to end systemic racism.
I believe Americans will return to our core values: we’re a nation of immigrants who are committed to religious freedom.
I’m hopeful that despite our differences, we can redirect our political leaders so they once again work for all of us.
If you feel discouraged and hopeless about the possibility of change, click to this video set to Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” to be reminded of how many unbelievably hard changes have taken place since the late 1960’s.
None of the coming changes will be easy and they will certainly be imperfect. Nonetheless, I believe that Americans’ good sense and love of justice will prevail.
“I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.”