Why can't DC be more like SA?


Why can't Washington, D.C. or Austin be more like San Antonio? Especially on days like Monday when at least 100,000 people did more than just show up on a cloudy, sometimes drizzly morning. They marched nearly three miles to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I always say San Antonio is such a unique city," said the Chairman of San Antonio's Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, Nathaniel Davis. "I mean we have the lowest population of African-Americans [about 8%] and just look at this march, it's fantastic."

Monday marked the 30th anniversary of the official, city-affiliated MLK Jr. march, though its origin dates back even further, to the years when Rev. R.A. Callies started walking through a stretch of San Antonio's east side with family and friends.

At that time the small, grass-roots gathering wasn't just to honor Dr. King, but to draw attention to simple, important needs in that largely African-American part of town - needs like better streets and drainage.

From those humble origins, San Antonio's MLK Jr. March blossomed into the biggest in the country, with some estimates of the crowd as high as 300,000.

"San Antonio can be an example for the rest of the country on how all folks can come together put aside our differences, focus on the things that we care about and do some good for the community."

That was San Antonio Congressman, Republican Will Hurd talking with our Darlene Dorsey during our live, two-hour coverage of the march on News 4 San Antonio.

And yes, he was just one of a big group of city, county, state, and federal officials walking at the very front of the march - where there just happens to be the most cameras.

Darlene interviewed a number of those leaders, including San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, who echoed Republican Hurd's comments.

"I'm very proud of San Antonio... that every year we celebrate not only the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, but also what he stood for. And I believe what he stood for is consistent with the values in San Antonio."

If you're cynical, you might write off the niceties from all those politicians by noting that our huge march also happens to be a huge photo-op with images and interviews broadcast around the state and even across the country.

You might also notice those leaders seem to pose at the front of the march, walking literally arm-in-arm while at least saying all the right things on a day to honor Dr. King.

But let's be optimistic. At least the march actually does bring all those various politicians together - literally together - and for a good, long 2.7 mile walk.

We can only hope that kind of shared experience will help them get along when it comes to working together in Austin or Washington, D.C. (or San Antonio).

Over they years I've noticed that lawmakers seem to get more done when they have some kind of relationships off-camera and away from the podiums and rallies where they're reaching only their own followers.

And those who at least pretend to get along waste less time insulting each other in front of our cameras. That means they have more time to answer real questions about what they'll do to work together and actually make things better.

So when they're stuck together, walking almost three miles that close to each other and to tens of thousands of people who might give them their unfiltered opinions, it can only be a good thing.

We noticed more than a few times Monday when Democrats and Republicans seemed to be chatting amiably with each other. We have to hope it helps them forge better relationships like many of us enjoy in San Antonio.

Over close to three-and-a-half decades of living and working in San Antonio, I've learned we may not agree with each other, have the same backgrounds, opinions, tastes, or interests as each other, but somehow we are still more likely to come together, overlook those differences and enjoy each other than any other place in the country.

So what's more impressive to me - and ultimately more important - than seeing those politicians at the front of the march walking arm-in-arm is realizing there is a huge sea of 'regular' people behind them.

From a distance it can look like a river of people snaking along that route on MLK Drive. And during that walk, some of those strangers get to know each other a little better, get to tear down the walls and stereotypes each of us build when we spend so much time in our own little bubbles of life.

And being respectful, or at least tolerant and more accepting, is what San Antonio seems to do better than so many other places.

"It's energizing," a man told us, while walking the route with his young son on his shoulders. "We're [originally] from Chicago and this is just empowering that we have this here in Texas. I think it's something that we can grow this thing to be even larger. It's an incredible opportunity for our city to showcase what we believe in what we stand for."

I took my own camera around Pittman-Sullivan Park as people filtered in at the end of the march to ask people why they think San Antonio's march is so big and why people here seem to get along so well.

"It says San Antonio is a city of love, that we know how to get it right here," Brenda Clark told me. "We know how to respect and value all people here in San Antonio."

"Because of the diversity of the city and so many people moving in through the military. I think it’s a melting pot," Michael Nathaniel said.

Tom McGill said "I think it's the unity in the diversity of the city - how everybody comes together. It's something that as a kid, growing up here... it's just tradition now. It's a beautiful sight."

Jerry McClinton, president of the San Antonio Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club said "I think San Antonio is a cultural melting pot. Everyone typically gets along. There’s not a lot of animosity in our city and I think we have one of the best cities in the country.”

Charles Boyd, who is black, moved here with his wife Erin, who is white, and their two young sons. He was surprised to find out about the march.

"It's impressive, moving here I didn't think that San Antonio would have the largest Martin Luther King March, so that was very interesting to learn. I think you have people from all over the country that come here, this is 'Military City,' and I think this is just a good event to bring people together to show that unification is the way to move forward. "

Boyd's wife Erin says she's felt the pain of racism. "Yes, with my husband, with my children I have experienced it. That's what makes it even more important to come out here to show my children that people can come together and everybody's not that way. It’s awesome. It’s awesome to see people of different backgrounds, races, religions come together for the same cause."

Charles Boyd says he wanted to bring his sons to the march "to let them know that this is the future. That a dream started a long time ago to unite the country and that it still carries on today."

It's still a dream and it's one that needs constant work to ever be realized. But it feels like San Antonio is a step or two closer to realizing that dream than what's going on with our leaders when they're in Washington, D.C. or Austin.

Here's hoping they can learn something from San Antonio and our surprising march.

Why can't DC be more like SA?

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