Purely by chance, I arrived in Montgomery, Alabama. Purely by chance, I arrived on the weekend that, every year, the famous Selma-Montgomery marches are commemorated. Not by chance, but I didn't know it would happen, I was at the spot this morning where a Congressional delegation laid a wreath at the Civil Rights Memorial. And tomorrow Barack Obama and both Clintons will be in Selma to retrace the beginning of the march.
If all goes well, I'll be somewhere in the crowd. Reminds me of the 75th anniversary of the march to Dandi, the last legs of which I joined; but the reminder is really because that one too attracted a politician -- Sonia Gandhi.
If this is all the commemoration of great nation-turning events from over 40 years ago, a few days ago in Mississippi I met some of the foot soldiers of those events. Not everyone becomes a John Lewis, or a Martin Luther King. After the movement, many returned to their ordinary lives, living in obscurity.
I met one such man in Indianola, standing on the porch of his slightly shabby house with no visible windows, sweeping. This was a man who spent time in jail with Angela Davis, for civil rights and anti-war demonstrations. And we stop to talk because we were driving by and saw him there.
"What influenced me most," this man said to me about the civil rights leaders he knew in the turbulent '60s, "was their quiet courage."