Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Martin Luther King Day in The Hague

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Diplomat Magazine
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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands. Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. "Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions." Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Publisher

By John Dunkelgrün

The twentieth century produced three giants in the non-violent battle for human rights, Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi, Martin Luther King jr., and Nelson Mandela.

At the initiative of Ms. Roberta Enschede the organization Overseas Americans Remember (OAR) started an annual memorial dinner for Dr. King in 1986, the year his birthday became a National Holiday in the U.S. This year the event was held on February 12th in Nieuwspoort, the press center of the Tweede Kamer (the lower house of the Dutch parliament).

The new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Her Excellency Shefali Razdan Duggal, opened the evening with a truly impassioned speech, in which she pointed out the many recent ‘wins’ for American women of color. She, Indian born, is the first woman of color to be the American ambassador to the Netherlands, Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first black woman on the Supreme Court and Kamela Harris is the first African-American/Asian-American woman Vice-President. That is how much has changed since the days of Dr. King.

Lois Mothershed Pot, who was the first black student at her university and the sister of Thelma Mothershed, one of the Little Rock nine (remember them?) told of her father who served as an officer in the segregated US army in WW II, where white soldiers looked the other way, so they wouldn’t have to salute him, and his disappointment of coming back to a still highly segregated South.

There were other moving speeches and beautiful singing but the thing that struck me most was a speech by a young girl, Ariela Cohen. She is Jewish Israeli-American and spoke of her deep friendship with Malk Alblawi a Muslima from Saoudi-Arabia. She was fed up with having to “explain their impossible friendship”, and was longing for the day when people could just be friends, whatever their background. It made me ponder. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the achievements about which the ambassador spoke, the fact that formal segregation no longer exists and that people of any color or creed can sit wherever they want, were so normal, they wouldn’t be worth talking about? Let us dream of the time when the achievements that the American ambassador spoke about so well, would be too humdrum even to mention.

Ms. Roberta Enschede is also the initiator of the annual Thanksgiving memorial in the Pieterskerk in Leiden, and was instrumental in getting April 19th formally recognised as Dutch-American Friendship Day by the U.S. Congress.

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