English 5

Time To Speak Up

It has been said that Alec Kramer’s political speeches in the 1960’s often were much like1 rock concerts than solemn discussions on the state of the nation. His speeches were eloquent, moving, and, above all, thought-provoking. Charmingly, intelligent,2 always flashing his trademark smile, he had a rare ability to win over any crowd, no matter what its views.

There is perhaps no superior3 example of this ability than the now-famous speech he gave in Washington, D.C., in March, 1964. It was, therefore,4 supposed to be cancelled due to the political strife of the time, which caused many to fear riots. In the days before the speech, the journalists that covered local events published dozens of editorials5 because they felt that Kramer’s safety and security could not possibly be guaranteed amidst the chaos. Kramer simply took this as a personal challenge.

Kramer issued a one-sentence press release, in which he stated his unshakeable resolve. Some found this move to be courageous, while detractors said he was intentionally trying to incite more discord through bullheaded politicking. The next move he made was6 to appear on local call-in shows, and discuss the importance of having differing opinions. Still, he wanted to make the point, in front of the entire nation, that, while open discourse was a positive, violence would not lead to the desired outcome. He did this to a large listening audience.7

Years after the speech, Kramer noted that internally he was in his memoirs8 actually quite scared for himself and for his family, but that he felt the obligation to exhibit a strong resolve. He says he used that raw emotion, that sense of fear, as inspiration to deliver the truest and most empowering speech he could muster. In his opening statements, he pointed out that right there, in their nation’s capitol, all around them stood the immovable monuments to America’s greatest leaders.9 He talked about those presidents, pioneers, men, who wrote the Declaration of Independence,10 and the Federalist Papers, and other brave heroes. Those men, Kramer said, were famous for their unending in-fighting, but were also famous for the respect and honor they had for one another.

Kramer concluded with a touching tribute to the late John F. Kennedy, after which he took his publicists by surprise by walking out to shake hands with members of the audience.11 It would be two years before he got up on a stage like that again. He focused his time lobbying in congress for equal rights for people of all races, religions, genders and orientations. His politics and philosophies were by no means the first of their kind, but his courage and charisma make him famous and well-known.12

Whether writing one of his best-selling books or providing much-needed aid to impoverished areas on one of many13 international trips, Kramer never seemed to rest. A statue was erected in his honor when he passed away in 1982. [14] By then, Kramer had not only earned his rightful place in history, but also won over15 the enduring love and respect of millions.