John’s Story

I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I lived just a few minutes outside of the District of Columbia. My mother worked downtown at the Red Cross. She went to Florida during the Cuban missile crisis. I went to camp at the YMCA during the summer in the District of Columbia. The monuments and museums were practically in my back yard. I attending Stanton Elementary School in the southeast section DC when I was in the second grade. I realized years later that my brother and I were the only white kids in the school at that time.

Later in my life, when it came to race, I never did have the same views as my piers. In the early 1960’s we moved into a predominantly white working class neighborhood in Maryland on the border of DC.  I remember vividly the assassination of President Kennedy and the riots in DC when Dr. King was assassinated. When Dr. King was assassinated we lived on Eastern Avenue. On one side was DC on the other Maryland. I could look outside and see the National Guard stationed in their tanks.

When I was in high school I worked in a gas station on Eastern Avenue. I can remember talking to a young black man, about my age, at the gas station. We were talking about race and he said “What would you think of me if I wanted to marry your daughter?” I told him that wouldn’t have anything to do with the color of his skin. He didn’t believe me. I felt at that time that things had changed. He reminded me that they had not changed for him. The hurt was too deep and had lasted too long.

Time has passed. I am the Business Manager for Sheet Metal Workers Local 100.  We work with the local communities in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to provide real career opportunities for the residents of these communities. We advocate for working people. I cannot believe that we, the American people, have the opportunity to elect Barack Obama as our next President of the United States. I truly believe that he is the best person for the job. I would not vote against or for a person based on skin color. I believe with all my heart that Barack Obama is the best person to be our next President. I do however understand the immense symbolism and healing power that this will have on us as a nation. I am very grateful, for myself, our nation and the world, to be alive on the brink of hope realized. I cannot bring myself to imagine the alternative.

God bless these United States of America. Amen.

John Shields
Crofton, MD

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