Heading to Stanford Pain Management Clinic for an adjustment on my pain pump. May need a little R&R. This blog will return on Monday.
My former boss, George Raveling, is once again in the news - and not for receiving the John Bunn Leadership Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (which he is) or the Joe Lapchick Award in New York (which he is) or induction to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City (which he is) - but for something that happened to him 50 years ago. It’s a story I post every Martin Luther King, Jr Day. This time, I’ve made a few factual corrections. There’s no question, however, George Raveling is quite an exceptional person.
In his mid twenties, George, a native of Washington, DC, was with a friend when they were approached by a man who told them that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was going to be speaking in the nation’s capitol. This was no secret as there was a buzz in the air as soon as Dr. King’s arrival date was announced. Apparently, the size of the crowd was misjudged and there was a need for additional security. Would they be interested? George, who has always been able to recognize a great opportunity when one is presented, immediately accepted the assignment. Suffice to say there were no questions like, “How long will it take?” and “Do we get paid?” that many others his age would inquire.
The day of the speech came and George didn’t just get there on time, he got there 45 minutes early. The same man who had offered the gig was impressed and mentioned to George, who at 6′5″ could have made a pretty good security guard had he chosen that field, that he would be serving as part of the group on stage with Dr. King. George sensed this had all the markings of quite an event.
The oratory MLK delivered that day was none other than “I Have A Dream.” Yeah, that speech. As anyone who’s ever seen the footage of the speech can attest, when it concluded, the massive audience was in an emotional frenzy. People were applauding, cheering, shouting, crying and no one was more caught up in the moment than George himself. As Dr. King began to leave the stage, George said to him (and as he’s told me on more than one occasion, “I have no idea why I did it”), “Dr. King, may I have a copy of your speech?” At that moment, Martin Luther King, Jr. handed George the manuscript that he had just had in front of him. George thanked him, but at that moment, a Rabbi said something to Dr. King and he turned away. So, George went home and stuck the notes in one of the numerous books he had in his apartment (George has always been a voracious reader and any place he’s ever lived has stacks of books throughout it).
Dr. King was subsequently assassinated and stories of all the impressive, life-changing accomplishments he’d made for humanity flooded the airwaves and print media. Naturally, the I Have A Dream speech was referred to time and again. All of a sudden, it struck George that he actually had the original notes from that famous speech, arguably the greatest one ever given. He went home, rummaged through his belongings and, sure enough, there they were, stuck in the same book, one on Harry Truman, where he had placed them.
Then George began thinking, “These notes are a part of history. They really belong in the Martin Luther King Museum in Atlanta.” He got the number, called, and explained the entire experience. He said that he wanted to donate this valuable document to the museum - with one caveat. He didn’t want any money; he just wanted for the plaque identifying the speech to say, “Notes donated by George H. Raveling.” As incredible as it sounds, the voice on the other end not only refused, but became somewhat indignant, lecturing George that he really didn’t have anything to do with the notes and turned down his request.
Since George is as reasonable as the next guy, as well as quite a bit brighter, he once again attempted to get the man to understand he didn’t want the plaque to say, “Written by George H. Raveling,” only that he had donated them. The museum rep couldn’t be budged, even telling George the notes weren’t even his, to which Rav replied, “Then how come I’m holding them in my hand?” That remark terminated the call and, to this day, George has the I Have A Dream notes safely stored away.
By the way, I believe the last offer George told me he received was 3.5 million dollars. In fact, a historian who, after thoroughly checking the papers, proclaimed the notes as legitimate, placed their value between $20-25 million. However, because he understands the significance of what they stand for, George refuses to sell. When asked why, he explains that his parents and grandmother instilled in him that some things have value beyond money.
At USC, we would bring the speech out when we had a big recruiting weekend and seeing it, framed under glass, would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, even if you didn’t have any hair. You’d realize you were in the presence of a major historical document, one which possibly explained the civil rights movement better than anything else and, in turn, did more to open people’s minds to what a brighter place the country could be if only folks treated each other fairly and equally.
There are lessons to be learned from all stories and this one has several.
1) When presented with an opportunity, seize it. Worry about what minor inconveniences it may cause at a later date.
2) When you’re supposed to be somewhere, don’t just get there on time; get there early.
3) Lose your inhibitions. Do you really think George Raveling was the only one in attendance who wanted a copy of that speech?
4) Don’t let pride get in the way of a good decision. If George’s request was properly handled, the notes would be hanging in the MLK museum.
John F. Kennedy summed up his feelings on the subject when he said:
“Every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated.”