Working Man Creative | A Story of Change – From KKK Member to Progressive Legislator – Robert Byrd
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A Story of Change – From KKK Member to Progressive Legislator – Robert Byrd

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A Story of Change – From KKK Member to Progressive Legislator – Robert Byrd



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This morning, the longest serving senator in the history of the United States passed away at the age of 92. Robert Byrd, who was from West Virginia, was first elected to the Senate when Kennedy was president. He served in the House of Legislators before that. In his early years, Byrd would certainly have not been called a progressive. He was a former member of the KKK; in fact, one of the Grand Dragons from the KKK was the one who convinced him to first run for political office. During the 1960′s, he joined other segregationist Senators, like Strom Thurmond from South Carolina, in an attempted block of the Civil Right’s legislation.

However, time changes people. Later, Byrd apologized for his actions on Civil Rights and later supported other Civil Right’s legislation. He also came out and endorsed Barack Obama, one week after he was heavily defeated in West Virginia by Hilary Clinton, which was a very strong and symbolic statement about the issue of race and change. He has been a critical vote in much of this administration’s agenda-specifically, health care reform. He has also spoken out against the Iraq War, when most other senators were too afraid. He also made sure to champion the cause of the workers and the poor from his state.

I think Byrd should serve as in inspiration to us. People are possibly of change, even late in their lives. We like to pigeon-hole and label people in a certain way, and we assume they are going to stay that way forever. Nevertheless, we forget the stories of people going from racism to inclusion, hate to compassion, and greed to giving. KKK members can become progressive voices for change. Terrorists can become peace activists. Criminals can become humanitarians. Sinners can become saints. In the end, Byrd will not be remembered for the mistakes he made earlier in his career as much as the strong way he ended it. No matter what our age or our circumstances, it is never to late to start again and make changes for the better.

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