In the following 1965 debate that took place between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Baldwin refers to “forty years ago when I was born …” Perhaps, because of my age, the phrase struck a chord. The debate takes place at Cambridge University, and its focus is that ever-evolving, often elusive concept of the american dream, and at whose expense that dream is realized. The whole debate is 58 minutes long. With all due respect to Mr. Buckley and his rebuttal, I am encouraging/challenging people to listen to at least the first part of the debate, the remarks of Baldwin. Whatever one’s political or social leanings, his command of language is a marvel to watch and listen to.
As I listened to Baldwin I was saddened at the timelessness of his words. Why are his words, spoken nearly fifty years ago, as relevant today? In a related side note, this morning I had the opportunity, by phone, to singalong with my four-year old nephew, Jordan. Apparently we both like to whistle. As I listened to Baldwin, I thought of Jordan and other little family members new to the world. I hope that they learn about Baldwin as a writer and an activist in his own unique way, and that they also learn about the power of words.