Every time I watch It's a Wonderful Life, the final scene finds me spilling tears. I know like the back of my hand what happens, what's said, and I also know that Capra's intentionally pulling on my heart strings with all his might. But none of that matters, because something in that finale--'Auld Lang Syne,' the bells, the laundry basket full of money--will forever make me goofily weepy.
The same is true, though for far different reasons, of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, given at the March for Jobs and Freedom 40 years ago this Thursday.
NPR has a great series of pieces about the March on Morning Edition this week, and this morning I actually found myself happy to be in my car making the trek down 280, because it meant I had the chance to listen to Juan Williams' entire piece. And I fully admit it: even before the inevitable clip from King's speech, I was in tears. I knew what was coming.
And it's weird: I cried this morning, like I always cry, not only because of the unquestionable power of King's words, and the cadences of his voice, but also because I so much wish I'd been there to hear him speak in person. I cried because the severe liberal in me (which is to say, most of me) always wishes I'd been born early enough to have the chance to be part of the movement, rather than becomining a student of it many years after the fact. I cried because my studies have taught me that what came after the March was, for far too long, equal parts liberation and desperation. And I cried, perhaps most of all, because I knew, as people at the March that day couldn't, that King would not live another two years.
Unless I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life alone, I always try to hide my tears and my sniffling, as it's a little embarrassing to still cry, after all these viewings, at something so contrived. But for King, for the March, for the movement, I will unabashedly cry in public. To me, there's no shame there; there's only uplift, and sadness, and despite everything, a bullheaded sense of hope.