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John R. Eggers: Elvis and Ghandi give us reason to walk on today

Regular people change the course of human events. Here are four individuals who did and, coincidently, they all began on March 3.

On March 3, 1887, Anne Sullivan began to teach her blind-deaf student, Helen Keller. As a result of Anne Sullivan’s teaching, Helen Keller became world famous for her advocacy for the blind and deaf. She was and still is an inspiration for all people. Were it not for Anne Sullivan we would not know Helen Keller.

Anne Sullivan was an orphan and had very poor eyesight. Several operations helped her regain her eyesight and she went on to graduate as class valedictorian in 1886 from the Perkins Institute for the Blind. It was after this time that she began to teach Helen Keller who was seven years old.

It was Anne Sullivan who said: “Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose - not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.”

On March 3, 1913 Ida B Wells-Barnett, a former African-American slave, demonstrated for female suffrage in Washington DC. She was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, a few months before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1909, Barnett was asked to be a member of the “Committee of 40,” which established the groundwork for the organization now known as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the oldest civil rights organization in the country.

Women eventually obtained the right to vote in 1920. Wells-Barnett continued her tireless crusade for equal rights for African-Americans until her death in 1931.

It was Ida B. Wells-Barnett who said: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

On March 3 in 1939, Mohandas Gandhi began to fast in protest of England’s autocratic rule in India. As a result of Gandhi’s leadership rooted in non-violence, India gained its independence on August 15, 1947.

On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was shot while he was walking to a platform from which he was to address a prayer meeting.

It was Gandhi who said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Elvis Presley performed his first appearance on television’s Louisiana Hayride on March 3, 1955. Louisiana Hayride was a country music show broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana. The appearance helped launch Elvis’ career to become the “King of Rock and Roll”. The rock music we have to today all started with Elvis.

Elvis Presley said: “Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

Here we have four individuals, two men and two women, who all changed the course of human events. They were just people, like you and me. What was it about each of them that made them accomplish great things?

In 2008 a folk rock group called the Weepies recorded a song titled: “Can’t Go Back.” Here are some of its lyrics.

You know there will be days

When you’re so tired

That you can’t take another step

The night will have no stars

And you’ll think you’ve gone as far

As you will ever get

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on

‘Cause you can’t go back now

Anne Sullivan, Ida B Wells-Barnett, Mohandas Gandhi and Elvis Presley achieved what they did because they kept walking on and didn’t turn back. You and I can do the same and we can start today, March 3.

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.