“ I didn’t refuse to get up because my feet were tired, I refused because I was tired of being mistreated”
- Mrs. Rosa Parks
Years ago, I was standing in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport waiting to board a plane to Detroit when Mrs. Rosa Parks, sitting in a wheeled chair, was rolled in front of me. The attendant that pushed her stepped away to check her in at the counter leaving her within two arms distance away from me. Despite her frail appearance, no one else recognized the historic figure.
The last thing I wanted to do was to bring unwanted attention to a lady whose life stand helped to give me an opportunity to participate in the pursuit of happiness. I wanted to walk over and give her a hug of thanks, but her expression made it clear that she was exhausted and longed for rest.
Before the attendant came back to wheel her off, she looked at me and our eyes met briefly. I smiled at her trying my best to convey the word “thanks” and she smiled back as if conveying the words “you’re welcome.” Other than the glance I got from her upon boarding, I never saw her again. I thought about her years later after moving to Alabama. I even visited the museum in Montgomery that stands in her honor. I thought about her again a short time later when I accepted a plant manager position at a plant in Alabama that stands near the very corner where White and Black Freedom Riders were attacked while riding a bus in 1961. I’ve always credited my personal achievements to a source much higher than anyone on earth. However, I believe that Mrs. Parks was chosen by that source to deliver the the spark that led to the equal opportunity that made the achievements possible. Millions of achievements from the entertainment industry to the top echelons of corporate America are in debt to this one act of courage.
I’m very critical of young people who by choice drop out of high school when so many people like Mrs. Parks, fought and died so that they could just have the right to an education.
“To give up the earned privilege of an education is like slapping Mrs. Parks in the face and demanding that she give up her seat,” I’ve often said.
We all owe a debt to Mrs. Parks and so many others that we may never be able to repay. The tireless effort of the aged and dying civil rights generation have earned the right to sit down and rest. It’s time for the generations that followed and are benefitting to stand and continue the example that history will never forget.
Mrs. Rosa Parks didn’t refuse to give up her seat because she was tired, she refused to give it up because she was tired of seeing people mistreated; she took a stand by sitting down. The least we can do is get up from our seat and take a stand for something that will benefit others.