Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. is a senior managing director of Lazard Frères & Co. LLC in New York. He works with a diverse group of clients across a broad range of industries. His speaking engagement at The Rankin Chapel was on Sunday, April 28, 2019.

GOOD MORNING RANKIN CHAPEL. MAY WE PLEASE BOW OUR HEADS?

LET THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH, AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART, BE ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT, O LORD, MY STRENGTH, AND MY REDEEMER. AMEN.

I HAVE BEEN PRIVILEGED TO LIFT MY VOICE FROM THIS PULPIT MANY TIMES SINCE 1992 WHEN DEAN EVANS CRAWFORD FIRST SUBPOENAED ME HERE. AND NOW DEAN EVANS CRAWFORD HAS CROSSED THE RIVER JORDAN, HE HAS BEEN SUMMONED TO ONE OF THE MANY ROOMS IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE, AND HIS FELLOW GREATS, THE PREACHERS WHO COMMANDED THIS RANKIN PULPIT—GARDNER TAYLOR, HOWARD THURMAN, MORDECAI JOHNSON, BENJAMIN MAYS, SAM PROCTOR, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., WERE ALL ON THE BALCONY OF HEAVEN TO WELCOME DEAN CRAWFORD TO THE QUIET AND BEAUTY OF IMMORTALITY AND ETERNITY.

SO I AM HUMBLED ONCE MORE TO STAND WHERE DEAN EVANS CRAWFORD STOOD, TO PREACH WHERE HE PREACHED SO MAGNIFICENTLY AND KNOWING THE WORLD IS QUIETER WITHOUT HIS VOICE, I ASK OF YOU A MOMENT OF SILENCE THAT DEAN CRAWFORD’S SPIRIT MIGHT FILL.

LET THE CHAPEL SAY AMEN.

WE LIVE IN INTERESTING, OFTEN INFURIATING TIMES. TO RECOUNT TO YOU THE HEADLINES… EVERY RACIST REMARK AND POLICY, EVERY SCANDAL, EVERY VIOLATION OF THE NORMS AND STANDARDS OF DECENCY AND BEHAVIOR WOULD TAKE UP ALL OF MY TIME. AND YOURS.
BUT THIS MOMENT IN TIME DID NOT APPEAR IN AN INSTANT, OR AS THE RESULT OF A SINGLE ELECTION. WHILE THIS YEAR MARKS 55 YEARS SINCE THE SIGNING OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, IT ALSO MARKS 400 YEARS SINCE THE FIRST ENSLAVED AFRICANS ARRIVED IN NORTH AMERICA.
IN OTHER WORDS, ONLY A FRACTION OF THE TIME THAT BLACK PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE OUR RIGHTS BEEN RECOGNIZED. AND EVEN IN THAT RELATIVELY BRIEF WINDOW, THE MATTER HAS NOT BEEN SETTLED, OR THE PROGRESS SAFE.

BUT EVERY ISSUE AND INEQUALITY THAT PERSISTS TODAY, HAS SUCH DEEP ROOTS THAT IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO CUT BACK THE THORNS AND THINK THE WORK IS OVER. THE ROOTS GO BACK BEYOND THE 1960’S, OR THE 1860’S, OR EVEN 1619. AND I BELIEVE AS A PEOPLE AND A NATION WE CONTINUE TO RECKON WITH THAT DIFFICULT HISTORY.
AND THAT STARTS WITH EACH OF US, REFLECTING ON OUR OWN HISTORY AND JOURNEY, THE SHOULDERS WE STAND ON, AND THE TRAIL WE ALL BLAZE.

SO THIS MORNING I’D LIKE TO OFFER YOU STORIES OF FOUR OLD MEN—NOT NOAH OR ABRAHAM, OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS OR KINGS, APOSTLES OR SAINTS. THOUGH LIKE THOSE STORIES, THESE ARE STORIES THAT OVER THE LAST 27 YEARS I HAVE SURELY TOLD IN RANKIN CHAPEL. BUT I WISH TO SHARE THEM AGAIN BECAUSE FOR ME THEY HAVE ONLY GAINED MEANING WITH TIME, AND EVEN MORE WHEN TAKEN TOGETHER. AS THE BOOK OF JOB REMINDS US, “WITH THE ANCIENT IS WISDOM, AND IN LENGTH OF DAYS UNDERSTANDING.” SO THESE ARE STORIES OF FOUR MEN WHO INFORM MY UNDERSTANDING OF WHERE WE’VE BEEN, AND WHERE WE NEED TO GO.

THE FIRST IS MY GRANDFATHER.

MY GRANDFATHER JIM GRIGGS WAS A SHARECROPPER ON ROBERT CALLIER’S PLACE IN TALBOTT COUNTY, GEORGIA, WHERE I VISITED EVERY AUGUST OF MY CHILDHOOD. IN THE SUMMER OF 1947, I GOT UP THE NERVE TO ASK MY GRANDFATHER SOMETHING THAT CONCERNED ME. WE WERE SITTING ON THE FRONT PORCH OF HIS ROADSIDE SHANTY, ROCKING TO THE SAME RHYTHM IN OUR ROCKING CHAIRS, AND I SAID,

‘PA, I WANT TO ASK YOU A QUESTION.’ HE SAID, ‘WHAT IS IT, BOY?’ AND I SAID, ‘PA, AT 70 YEARS OLD, WAY DOWN HERE IN TALBOTT COUNTY ON MR. ROBERT CALLIER’S PLACE, WHAT IS IT, PA, THAT YOU MOST WANT OUT OF LIFE?’

AND PA RAISED HIMSELF UP FROM THAT OLD RAGGEDY ROCKING CHAIR. HE HAD SNUFF IN THE FRONT OF HIS MOUTH AND TOBACCO IN THE BACK OF HIS MOUTH. HE SPIT THAT TOBACCO AND SNUFF ALL THE WAY TO THE HIGHWAY IN A STRAIGHT LINE. AND HE LEANED BACK AND SAID, “JUNIOR, AT 70 YEARS OLD, WAY DOWN HERE IN TALBOTT COUNTY ON MR. ROBERT CALLIER’S PLACE, ALL I WANT OUT OF LIFE IS TO BE ABLE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM INDOORS IN A WARM PLACE ONE TIME BEFORE I DIE.”

THAT WAS MY GRANDFATHER’S HIGHEST ASPIRATION. THAT WAS HIS IMPOSSIBLE DREAM—TO BE ABLE TO GO THE BATHROOM INDOORS IN A WARM PLACE ONE TIME BEFORE HE DIED. PA DIDN’T SAY THAT HE WANTED TO LEARN TO READ AND WRITE AND DO ARITHMETIC. HE DIDN’T SAY THAT HE WANTED TO REGISTER TO VOTE OR SIT ON A JURY OR EAT AT THE LUNCH COUNTER OR GO TO THE LIBRARY, BECAUSE HIS LIFE WAS SO BLINDED BY SEGREGATION, DISCRIMINATION, AND DEHUMANIZATION THAT HIS HIGHEST ASPIRATION WAS A BASIC CREATURE COMFORT. I AM FOREVER REMINDED, EDIFIED, SANCTIFIED, YEA, EVEN TORMENTED BY MY GRANDFATHER’S EXPERIENCE.
THE SHUTTERS OF MY GRANDFATHER’S LIFE WERE SO CLOSED THAT HE COULD FORESEE NO FUTURE FOR HIS 12-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON OR HIMSELF.

MY GRANDFATHER WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO IMAGINE THE PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE. HE WOULD NOT HAVE BELIEVED THAT THIS COUNTRY WOULD ELECT BARACK OBAMA TO TWO TERMS. AND HE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO FATHOM ME STANDING HERE RIGHT NOW, MUCH LESS MY LIFE AND CAREER. OF COURSE, HE WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE.

THE SECOND OLD MAN IS ROBERT F. MADDOX, ONE OF THE LEADING HISTORIC FIGURES IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA’S WHITE ELITE. HE SAT ON THE PLATFORM WHEN BOOKER T. WASHINGTON GAVE THE FAMOUS ATLANTA COMPROMISE SPEECH IN 1895. HE WAS MAYOR OF ATLANTA IN 1910, PRESIDENT OF THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF ATLANTA, PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN BANKING ASSOCIATION, AND PRESIDENT OF THE GARDEN CLUBS OF AMERICA. AND IN THE SUMMER OF 1955, AT THE END OF MY SOPHOMORE YEAR IN COLLEGE, I WAS HIS CHAUFFER AND BUTLER.

THIS WAS NOT MY PLAN. I HAD COME HOME TO WORK AS A SALESMAN FOR A NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, WHERE I HAD BEEN HIRED FOR A SUMMER INTERNSHIP. BUT IN 1955, WHEN SEGREGATION WAS STILL A FACT OF LIFE, THE ATLANTA EXECUTIVES WOULD NOT ALLOW ME TO WORK IN THEIR DOWNTOWN OFFICES.

AND SO, FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST, I BECAME THE CHAUFFEUR AND BUTLER TO ROBERT F. MADDOX.EVERY MORNING, HE WOULD COME DOWNSTAIRS, PICK OUT A WALKING STICK AND THE APPROPRIATE STRAW HAT, AND GET INTO THE BACK OF HIS BLUE, FOUR-DOOR CADILLAC, AND I DROVE HIM TO THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK. AFTER THAT, I DROVE HIM TO THE CAPITAL CITY CLUB FOR LUNCH BEFORE RETURNING HOME. WHILE HE NAPPED, I READ IN HIS HUGE, BEAUTIFUL LIBRARY ALL AFTERNOON, SITTING IN HIS BIG COMFORTABLE CHAIR, OVER THE LOUD PROTESTS OF LIZZIE THE COOK. (LIZZIE AND THE GROCERY MAN) ONE AFTERNOON, MR. MADDOX WALKED INTO THE LIBRARY IN HIS UNDERWEAR, WITH A BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS IN ONE HAND AND A GLASS IN THE OTHER.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY LIBRARY, IN MY CHAIR?” HE INQUIRED.
“I’M READING, MR. MADDOX.”

“READING? I’VE NEVER HAD A NIGGER WORK FOR ME WHO COULD READ,” HE SAID.

I RESPONDED, “MR. MADDOX, I CAN READ. I GO TO COLLEGE.”

“YOU GO TO COLLEGE OVER THERE AT THOSE COLORED SCHOOLS?” (MEANING MOREHOUSE OR CLARK COLLEGE)

“NO, SIR. I’M A STUDENT AT DEPAUW UNIVERSITY IN GREENCASTLE, INDIANA.”

HE PONDERED THIS FOR A MOMENT.

“WHITE CHILDREN GO TO THAT SCHOOL.”

“YES, SIR.”

“WHITE GIRLS GO TO THAT SCHOOL.”

“YES, SIR.”

“ARE YOU STUDYING TO BE A PREACHER OR A TEACHER?” IN HIS MIND, THE ONLY OPTIONS FOR BLACK COLLEGE GRADS —

“ACTUALLY, I’M PREPARING TO BE A LAWYER,” I ANSWERED.

“NIGGERS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE LAWYERS.”

“I’M GOING TO BE A LAWYER, MR. MADDOX.”

HE STOOD PERPLEXED FOR A MOMENT AND FINALLY SAID, “JUST GO AHEAD AND READ THEN.”

LATER THAT EVENING, AS I WAS SERVING DINNER TO MADDOX, HIS SON AND DAUGHTER AND THEIR SPOUSES, HE SAID, “I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE, CHILDREN: VERNON CAN READ.” SILENCE. “AND HE GOES TO COLLEGE WITH WHITE CHILDREN. THIS RACE MIXING IS COMING TO GEORGIA, BUT I’M GLAD I WILL NOT BE HERE TO SEE IT.”
A FEW YEARS LATER, JANUARY 1961, MR. MADDOX’S NURSE CALLED HIS ATTENTION TO THE TELEVISION. THE NEWS BROADCAST SHOWED ME ESCORTING CHARLAYNE HUNTER AND HAMILTON HOLMES THROUGH THE MOBS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, AFTER A COURT RULING ADMITTING THEM AS THE FIRST BLACK STUDENTS. THE NURSE ASKED, “DO YOU RECOGNIZE THAT COLORED LAWYER, MR. MADDOX? IT’S YOUR CHAUFFEUR VERNON.”

AND MADDOX LOOKED HARD AT THE SCREEN AND SAID, “I ALWAYS KNEW THAT NIGGER WAS UP TO NO GOOD.”

AND THAT IS WHAT I ASK OF YOU TODAY.

TO GET UP TO NO GOOD—THE GOOD KIND OF NO GOOD. THE KIND MY FRIEND JOHN LEWIS CALLS MAKING “GOOD TROUBLE.” WHAT IN THE DAYS OF JESUS WAS SIMPLY CALLED “MINISTRY.” WHETHER IT’S MARCHING FROM SELMA TO MONTGOMERY OR DRIVING THE MONEY CHANGERS FROM THE TEMPLE—THE KIND OF NO GOOD THAT AT ITS CORE IS DEFYING OPPRESSION FOR THE SAKE OF JUSTICE. NO GOOD FOR THE GREATER GOOD.

IN MY CASE, IT WAS BECOMING A LAWYER HERE AT HOWARD UNIVERSITY, BEFORE GOING BACK HOME TO GEORGIA TO FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, WORKING ON CASES LIKE THE ONE THAT INTEGRATED THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA. WHEN MADDOX SAID I WAS “UP TO NO GOOD” I WAS LITERALLY HELPING TO OPEN THE DOOR FOR CHARLAYNE HUNTER AND HAMILTON HOLMES AND THE BLACK STUDENTS THAT FOLLOWED THEM.

AND SO MY QUESTION FOR ALL OF US, AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE STUDENTS HERE TODAY, IS: WHAT DOORS WILL YOU OPEN? WHAT TROUBLE WILL YOU MAKE? WHAT JUSTICE WILL YOU SERVE?
BECAUSE NOW IT IS YOUR TURN.

WE MAY HAVE LEFT SLAVERY, BUT LOOK AT THE WORLD TODAY—YOU CAN’T TELL ME WE’VE REACHED FREEDOM.

AND YET, WE MUST HAVE HOPE, BECAUSE WE KNOW CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. SOCIETY CAN CHANGE. PEOPLE CAN CHANGE. AND THAT BRINGS ME TO THE THIRD OLD MAN. IN MAY 1980, I WAS SHOT IN THE BACK WITH A 30-06 HUNTING RIFLE BY A WHITE SUPREMACIST IN FORT WAYNE, INDIANA. AND WHEN I CAME OUT OF THE OPERATING ROOM AFTER THE SURGERY BY A BLACK DOCTOR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, ONE OF THE MANY WIRES AND TELEGRAMS THAT CAME WAS FROM MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA.

IT READ: “I WAS SHOCKED AND SADDENED TO LEARN OF YOUR INJURY. I AM PRAYING FOR YOUR COMPLETE RECOVERY AND AM THANKFUL THAT YOUR LIFE WAS SPARED.”

THAT WIRE WAS SIGNED “GEORGE C. WALLACE, GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA.”

NOW, I FOUGHT GOVERNOR WALLACE AND WHAT HE STOOD FOR FROM THE DAY HE DEFIED THE LAW AND MORALITY BY TRYING TO DENY BLACK PEOPLE THEIR RIGHTS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION.
BUT I APPRECIATED THAT WIRE. IT SAID TO ME THAT POLITICAL DIFFERENCES MUST BE SUBORDINATED TO COMMON HUMANITY. IT SAID TO ME THAT WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS WHO HAVE TO REACH OUT TO EACH OTHER.

THE STORY DOESN’T END THERE. A YEAR LATER, I WENT TO MONTGOMERY TO CELEBRATE THE RETIREMENT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS CHAMPION E.D. NIXON—THE FIRST PERSON ROSA PARKS CALLED AFTER SHE WAS ARRESTED.

FIVE MINUTES BEFORE THE PROGRAM STARTED, STATE TROOPERS WHEELED GOVERNOR GEORGE WALLACE INTO THE GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM. AT THE END OF THE PROGRAM, GOVERNOR WALLACE HAD THE STATE TROOPERS PUT HIS WHEELCHAIR UP ON THE STAGE AND ROLLED HIM TOWARD ME.
WE SHOOK HANDS. THE GOVERNOR SAID, “VERNON, YOU GOT MY TELEGRAM, YOU SAID SO IN THE SPEECH.” AND I SAID, “IT WAS THE FIRST ONE THAT I READ.”

HE SAID, “YOU WERE SHOT WORSE THAN ME. BUT I HEAR YOU STILL PLAY GOLF AND TENNIS, AND HERE I AM STUCK IN THIS DAMN WHEELCHAIR.”

AND THEN HE SAID, “MR. JORDAN, WILL YOU DO SOMETHING FOR ME.”
“WHAT IS IT, GOVERNOR?” I ANSWERED.

AND GEORGE C. WALLACE—THE MAN WHO PROCLAIMED “SEGREGATION NOW, SEGREGATION TOMORROW, SEGREGATION FOREVER”—SAID TO ME, “VERNON JORDAN, WILL YOU REACH DOWN AND HUG ME?”
THAT’S THE ABSOLUTE, GOD’S-HONEST TRUTH. THE MEAN, OLD RACIST WHO ONCE STOOD IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR TO KEEP BLACK PEOPLE OUT, COULD NO LONGER STAND AT ALL. YET HE WISHED HE COULD STAND—NOT TO SET HIMSELF DEFIANTLY ATHWART HISTORY—BUT RATHER TO EMBRACE ME AS A BROTHER WHO SHARED A COMMON TRAGEDY.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH GOVERNOR WALLACE IS A REMINDER THAT THE ROAD MAY BE LONG, BUT WE CAN BRING ABOUT CHANGE IN THIS COUNTRY, IN OUR LAWS, AND, AS HARD AS IT MAY BE TO BELIEVE, IN THE HEARTS OF OTHERS.

BUT IT WILL NOT BE EASY, AND IT WILL NOT HAPPEN BY ITSELF.
THAT’S WHY, STUDENTS OF HOWARD, IT IS NOW YOUR TURN TO LEAD. TO TAKE THE BATON. TO TAKE THE STRENGTH OF HARRIET TUBMAN AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS… OF W.E. B. DUBOIS AND IDA B. WELLS… OF LANGSTON HUGHES AND ZORA NEALE HURSTON… THURGOOD MARSHALL AND CONSTANCE BAKER MOTLEY… OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND ELLA BAKER, ROSA PARKS AND MEDGAR EVERS… OF BARBARA JORDAN AND DOROTHY HEIGHT AND RUDY HURLEY… AND TOO MANY MORE TO NAME, WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU, PAVED THE WAY AND LEFT YOU GREAT MODELS OF LEADERSHIP.

OF COURSE, WE ALSO NEED NOT ONLY TO LOOK BACK, BUT LOOK AROUND, TO ALL THOSE FIGHTING FOR EQUALITY, FOR JUSTICE, AND FOR CIVIL RIGHTS TODAY—THE ROLE MODELS AND MENTORS, PARTNERS AND FRIENDS YOU WILL NEED FOR THE ROAD AHEAD.

THEY MAY BE IN PUBLIC OFFICE OR LEADING PROTESTS IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE. THEY MAY BE TITANS OF INDUSTRY OR FOUND ON TWITTER. THEY MAY BE IN COURTROOMS OR CITY HALLS OR CORPORATE OFFICES… OR RIGHT HERE ON THE CAMPUS OF HOWARD UNIVERSITY. OR THEY MAY EVEN BE CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
IT IS NO SECRET THAT WE ARE INCHING EVER CLOSER TO AN ELECTION. EARLIER IN MY CAREER, I DID VOTER REGISTRATION AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION, BECAUSE WE KNEW AND FELT AND FOUGHT FOR THAT PRECIOUS, SACRED RIGHT. AND IT IS MY HOPE THAT YOU FIND A WAY TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS ELECTION. BECAUSE AS WE KNOW, HISTORICALLY, THAT THE BLACK VOTE GIVETH AND THE BLACK VOTE TAKETH AWAY. BLESSED BE THE BLACK VOTE.

OF COURSE, WITH SO MANY CANDIDATES DECLARED, WE KNOW IT WILL BE A LONG PRIMARY. WHILE PRIMARIES ARE FOR FIGHTING, GENERAL ELECTIONS ARE FOR WINNING. WE CANNOT LOSE SIGHT OF THAT ULTIMATE GOAL, THAT ESSENTIAL NEED.

SO NO MATTER WHO YOUR CANDIDATE IS TODAY, I HOPE THAT WHEN THE TIME COMES, AND WHEN THE PRIMARIES END, WE WILL BE READY TO COME TOGETHER AND COALESCE AROUND ONE CANDIDATE, ONE WHO WILL SURELY SERVE OUR COUNTRY AND COMMUNITY WITH MORE DIGNTY, INTEGRITY, AND RESPECT.
AND WHILE THE ELECTION IS STILL MANY MONTHS AWAY, THE WORK OF CHANGE IS CONSTANT.
AND NOW, IT IS YOUR TURN.

YOUR TURN TO LITIGATE AND LEGISLATE, YOUR TURN TO PROTEST AND PROTECT, YOUR TURN TO STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT. YOUR TURN TO LEAD THE MOVEMENT IN THE MODERN ERA AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD AND PRESENCE FELT.

YOUR TURN TO PUSH THE COUNTRY FORWARD, TO FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, AND BUILD A BETTER FUTURE.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY FINAL STORY, THE FOURTH OLD MAN—WHOSE EXPERIENCE IS NOT LIKE THAT OF MY GRANDFATHER, OR ROBERT MADDOX, OR GEORGE WALLACE.

BECAUSE THE FOURTH OLD MAN IS ME.

AS SCRIPTURE REMINDS US, IN PSALM 71 (VERSES 17-18):

O GOD, YOU HAVE TAUGHT ME FROM MY YOUTH, AND TO THIS DAY I DECLARE YOUR WONDROUS WORKS.
NOW ALSO WHEN I AM OLD AND GRAYHEADED,
O GOD, DO NOT FORSAKE ME,
UNTIL I DECLARE YOUR STRENGTH TO THIS GENERATION,
YOUR POWER TO EVERYONE WHO IS TO COME.

SO WHAT CAN I LEAVE YOU WITH? WHAT CAN I DECLARE TO THIS GENERATION? HOW CAN I EMPOWER YOU WITH WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING?
PERHAPS IT’S THIS: WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF IMMEDIACY. IMMEDIATE DELIVERIES. IMMEDIATE COMMUNICATION. BUT THE WORK OF JUSTICE TAKES TIME. THERE WILL BE MOMENTS OF DOUBT AND DIFFICULTY. AND THAT MEANS YOU NEED TO FIND YOUR ROCK, YOUR INSPIRATION. FOR ME, RANKIN CHAPEL HAS LONG BEEN THAT ROCK. AND IN THIS PLACE, I HAVE SEEN AND HEARD MANY SOURCES OF INSPIRATION, TEACHERS AND PREACHERS, SONGS AND PSLAMS. OUR FAITH AND OUR CHURCH HAS TO BE A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION, BECAUSE AS THE LORD SAID TO ISAIAH (46:4):
EVEN TO YOUR OLD AGE, I AM HE, AND EVEN TO GRAY HAIRS I WILL CARRY YOU!
I HAVE MADE, AND I WILL BEAR;
EVEN I WILL CARRY, AND WILL DELIVER YOU.

AND JUST AS THE LORD WILL CARRY US, WE MUST BE PREPARED TO CARRY ONE ANOTHER, AND LIFT UP ONE ANOTHER AND OUR COMMUNITY. IN FACT, I’VE RECENTLY BEEN REFLECTING ON THE TRUE MEANING OF ‘LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING,’ BY JAMES WELDON JOHNSON AND HIS BROTHER JOHN ROSAMOND JOHNSON. THE SONG HAS A LONG AND STORIED HISTORY. ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, IT BECAME THE OFFICIAL SONG OF THE NAACP. IT HAS BEEN PERFORMED AND RECORDED COUNTLESS TIMES, INCLUDING THE RECENT, NOTABLE RENDITIONS BY BEYONCE KNOWLES-CARTER AND HER DAUGHTER.

IT’S A SONG I HAVE SUNG MY ENTIRE LIFE, FROM THOSE EARLIEST DAYS WITH PA, THROUGH MY YEARS IN THE MOVEMENT, IN MOMENTS OF JOY AND MOMENTS OF SADNESS—AND IT WILL BE SUNG LONG AFTER I LEAVE THIS EARTH. AS I HAVE GROWN OLDER, I HAVE COME TO MARVEL AT THE DEPTHS OF ITS WISDOM AND TRUTH, PASSED ACROSS GENERATIONS. I LEAVE YOU WITH THESE WORDS, WHICH FEEL AS APPROPRIATE NOW AS THEY EVER HAVE BEEN—SO THAT YOU MIGHT CARRY ITS LIGHT AS YOU LEAD US FORWARD, AND THAT YOU MAY BE INSPIRED AS YOU TAKE YOUR TURN. AND SO:

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING,
TILL EARTH AND HEAVEN RING,
RING WITH THE HARMONIES OF LIBERTY;
LET OUR REJOICING RISE
HIGH AS THE LIST’NING SKIES,
LET IT RESOUND LOUD AS THE ROLLING SEA.
SING A SONG FULL OF THE FAITH THAT THE DARK PAST HAS TAUGHT US,
SING A SONG FULL OF THE HOPE THAT THE PRESENT HAS BROUGHT US;
FACING THE RISING SUN OF OUR NEW DAY BEGUN,
LET US MARCH ON TILL VICTORY IS WON
.

STONY THE ROAD WE TROD,
BITTER THE CHAST’NING ROD,
FELT IN THE DAYS WHEN HOPE UNBORN HAD DIED;
YET WITH A STEADY BEAT,
HAVE NOT OUR WEARY FEET
COME TO THE PLACE FOR WHICH OUR FATHERS SIGHED?
WE HAVE COME OVER A WAY THAT WITH TEARS HAS BEEN WATERED.
WE HAVE COME, TREADING OUR PATH THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE SLAUGHTERED,
OUT FROM THE GLOOMY PAST,
TILL NOW WE STAND AT LAST
WHERE THE WHITE GLEAM OF OUR STAR IS CAST.

GOD OF OUR WEARY YEARS,
GOD OF OUR SILENT TEARS,
THOU WHO HAST BROUGHT US THUS FAR ON THE WAY;
THOU WHO HAST BY THY MIGHT,
LED US INTO THE LIGHT,
KEEP US FOREVER IN THY PATH, WE PRAY.
LEST OUR FEET STRAY FROM THE PLACES, OUR GOD, WHERE WE MET THEE,
LEST OUR HEARTS, DRUNK WITH THE WINE OF THE WORLD, WE FORGET THEE;
SHADOWED BENEATH THY HAND,
MAY WE FOREVER STAND,
TRUE TO OUR GOD,
TRUE TO OUR NATIVE LAND.
THAT IS OUR CHARGE TO KEEP, OUR CALLING TO FULFILL, OUR RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY. AND TO THAT END:
MAY WE NEITHER STUMBLE OR FALTER,
RATHER MAY WE MOUNT UP WITH WINGS AS EAGLES
MAY WE RUN AND NOT BE WEARY
MAY WE WALK TOGETHER—CHILDREN
AND NOT BE FAINT.

LET THE CHAPEL SAY AMEN. AMEN. AMEN.

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
LINKEDIN
GOOGLE
EMAIL

Tags

leave a Reply

Advertisement

In Case You Missed It

Blogs

Login


Username
Create an Account!
Password
Forgot Password?

Create an Account!


Username
Email
Password
Confirm Password
Want to Login?

Forgot Password?


Username or Email
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial