During my lifetime, I’ve seen many changes in society that had to do with extending civil rights to people who did not have access to those rights in the past. The first time I became aware that not all people were being treated as equals was during a summer vacation.
In 1956, my parents decided to spend a couple of weeks along the Gulf Coast. The plan was to get a place along the beach, play in the water, and eat all the seafood we wanted. While we did all those things, I also noticed something that I had never encountered at home. There were separate drinking fountains for different races. In some of the restaurants we dined in, there was a special section for people of color, usually toward the back and out of sight. Even the beaches had areas that were only for the use of Caucasians.
By the time I graduated from high school, the Sixties were in full swing -as was the fight for equality. As I attended rallies and mingled with people who came from very different backgrounds, I began to understand why protecting the rights of all people mattered. To this day, the lessons I learned during those years have allowed me to see the value in everyone I meet.
Today, the struggle to extend civil rights to all people continues. Those struggles are still sometimes along racial lines, but they also include lines such as gender, age, and even religion. We still have a long way to go, but the promise is that by learning to affirm the worth of all persons in our laws as well as our hearts, the world will be a better place.