Eleanor Roosevelt said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I always saw being a Trustee of the Rotary Foundation as the dream Rotary job. I just never thought I would live the dream. But being the first woman Trustee; being the first woman to be a senior Rotary leader and crack the glass ceiling is farthest from my mind today and for the past two weeks.

You see I am old enough to remember 1955 when Rosa Parks, a tired black woman in Alabama, boarded a bus; sat in a front seat and refused to yield when a white passenger demanded his right. The Montgomery bus boycott followed for over a year, and is regarded as the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation. Ultimately, the US Supreme Court declared segregated busing to be a violation of our Constitution.

I am old enough to remember the Greensboro sit-in: a civil rights protest that started in 1960, when young African American students staged a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter. Though arrested for their conduct, it had a lasting impact nationwide and forced Woolworth’s and other stores to alter their racist practices.

I am old enough to remember 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma to protest the lack of voting rights for African Americans, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

I remember living happily, safely, securely in Trieste, Italy where I was the only person of color in the entire town and the townspeople were thrilled that I was there. Everywhere I went everybody knew my name. They loved me; they adored me. Yet instead of hunkering down there in my safe cocoon, I came home in 1967 because my country was burning and I wanted to be here – to be a part of the solution.

In my small way, I tried to do my part as a legal services poverty lawyer in California and, later, as a human rights lawyer in Alaska.

Over time, I actually believed I saw progress; that I saw change.

Until three weeks ago, when the entire world had the rare and ugly opportunity to watch a black man being murdered in real time right before our eyes. And I thought: Oh, expletive! Over 50 years have passed and nothing has changed.

And I can think of nothing else. I read the newspapers. I read news online. I watch the news reports. I listen to the news commentators.

It is still too true that a few rogue police officers around the country continue to abuse, injure and even murder black people. And usually without accountability.

But, I am wrong about one thing: something has changed.

Back in the late 50s and 60s, the people marching for peace and justice were almost all blacks. But if you have been looking closely at your TV screen; looking closely at the people protesting; paying attention to the organizers of these protests, you have seen that this time all America is protesting.

In one city, a line of middle-aged white women linked arms and stood in a long line in front of the protesters as a shield against the line of law enforcement. In another city, the whites marching outnumbered the people of color. A massive Black Lives Matter protest held in Nashville last week was organized by six white and black teenaged girls who met online and wanted to honor the memory of George Floyd; 9-year old Aubrey Johnson – a white girl in Ohio — gave an impassioned speech that black lives matter at a protest last week.

In the sports world, white athletes are speaking out. 70 members of the Denver Broncos staff and team led thousands in a BLM protest march. Even the NFL Commissioner has changed his position and endorses peaceful protest by the players. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says it’s up to white people to call out racism, ‘no matter what the consequences.

Researchers say these protests, now in their 4th week are the broadest in U.S. history, having spread to well over 650 cities and towns, across all 50 states.

In fact, the world is protesting with us: London, Berlin, Toronto, Jerusalem, Rome, Dublin, Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Lebanon. 3 childhood friends at a peaceful protest in Dundalk, Ireland last Tuesday protested: 2 black, 1 white.

The white young man’s sign read: “I am not black but I see U, I am not black but I hear U. I am not black but I will fight 4 U.”

Many businesses, organizations and individuals are quickly issuing written statements condemning racism. I am not unappreciative.

But, we need more. We need you. To act.

So. Please take out your mobile phones and activate your cameras. If you go to the links shown, you will find incredible lists of ways that you can work for peace and justice. [https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234] Surely within these lists, there is something suitable for you as an individual, for your Rotary districts, for your Rotary clubs. If not, call me.

RIPE Holger’s Rotary theme for RY 2021 is “Rotary Opens Opportunities”

Today, I offer you the opportunity to back up words with action and eradicate racism. Secure justice. Build peace.

More than that, I offer you the opportunity to be on the right side of history.