About the Author: Joel Maybury serves as U.S. Consul at the American Presence Post in Bordeaux, France.
Bordeaux's metropolitan area straddles the Garonne River. The city's left bank has long been regarded as privileged and the right bank as underprivileged. And so, for this year's celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, we deliberately reached out to high schools on both sides of the river to speak to more than 200 students about the Civil Rights Movement, the late Dr. King, and his legacy.
As a result, students at Lycee Francois Magendie on the left bank and students at Lycee Les Iris on the right bank both had the opportunity to read aloud Dr. King's celebrated "I Have A Dream" speech, and then reflect on his life and accomplishments.
These students' knowledge of the Civil Rights leader and key developments and trends from that era was impressive: Dr. King was a pastor; he was inspired by the methods of Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi; he served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; he led the March on Washington in 1963 and gave his famous speech there; he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
These same students were captivated by accounts of the Montgomery bus boycott and Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger; the sit-in in Greensboro, N.C.; the Freedom Riders; and the many African-American grassroots organizations and their allies who employed non-violent direct action strategies for social change.
With the referendum in Southern Sudan and events in Tunisia as a backdrop, these Bordeaux area students seemed to grasp the concept that acquiring and protecting one's civil rights is an ongoing process that continues to manifest itself across the world.
Before leaving each of the schools, I urged the students not only to think about Dr. King's dream, but to ask themselves whether it has been fulfilled with, for example, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States -- or is the dream still a work in progress?