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What would take race relations in U.S. to the next level?

January 17, 2007|by BOB MAGINNIS

There is a lot of junk on the Internet, but if you search carefully enough, you can find gold, too.

Last week I looked for information about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader whose birthday we celebrated on Monday.

Among a number of tributes, biographies and retrospectives, I found Time magazine's 1964 story on him when he was named that publication's Man of the Year.

I was in 10th grade then, more interested in each weekend's teen dance than the issues of the day. It was not until he died four years later that I took an interest in his life and what he had accomplished.


He risked a great deal. The Time story noted that as of 1964, King had been "stabbed in the chest, and physically attacked three more times; his home has been bombed three times, and he has been pitched into jail 14 times."

He received death threats on a regular basis, but he persisted in his quest for racial equality, despite the political pressure to "wait" until the time - and the political climate - were more hospitable.

King recognized that the climate would never change on its own; he had to confront injustice in a nonviolent way, as one of his heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, had done in India, fasting to protest British rule there.

It is easy for me to say that we have come a long way in the nearly four decades since King's death. Except on St. Patrick's Day, I seldom think about my Irish heritage; I don't doubt African-Americans think about what they and their ancestors endured on a daily basis.

Perhaps this is too serious a subject for a contest, but I feel I need to ask readers to respond on this topic: What steps might take race relations in America to the next level - to the place where King imagined all citizens would be judged on the content on their character, versus the color of their skin?

Send your letters to Letter Contest, The Herald-Mail, c/o Editorial Page Editor, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741. Entries can also be e-mailed to

Letters need to include your name, address and daytime phone number. The deadline is Monday, Jan. 22.

The best entry will receive a $25 gasoline card or I'll make a donation in that amount to your favorite charity.

After my recent column on Shaken Baby Syndrome, I heard from George Lithco of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., whose infant son "Skipper" died in 2000 after being shaken by a babysitter.

In a Jan. 2 editorial in the Poughkeepsie Journal, the editors describe the efforts by Lithco and his wife, Peggy Whalen, to prevent other tragedies through the SKIPPER Initiative.

SKIPPER stands for Shaking Kills: Instead Parents Please Educate and Remember. The Journal's editors advise parents to not only educate themselves on Shaken Baby Syndrome, but also to make grandparents, relatives and anyone else who might care for the child aware of the dangers of shaking.

For more information, visit the SKIPPER Web site at

Not your problem? Amy Wicks of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome said the cost of initial hospitalization for a child who survives being shaken is $300,000.

Wicks said that doesn't include follow-up care, medicine or rehabilitation services. Who do you think gets to pay a share of that bill?

This coming Saturday, Jan. 20, starting at 4 p.m. at the Cochran Auction Theatre in Boonsboro, there will be a fundraiser for Devin Fales, the Keedysville boy with Fanconi anemia, a rare condition that attacks bone marrow.

The boy is now being treated at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital and the family's expenses include back-and-forth travel by Devin's father, the only parent working.

Tickets are $30 each and will include a catered meal and a dance with a DJ. For ticket information, call the fire company at 301-432-2348 or Don Shumaker, president of First Hose Co. of Boonsboro at 301-432-8605 or 301-964-8605.

For the past several days, I've received Voicemail messages from someone saying they represent the Civilian Liberty Forces, asking me to print their Jan. 2 letter. Since you didn't leave a number, I'll tell you here: I don't have your letter. Please send another copy with a name, address and daytime phone number and we'll see what we can do.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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