During my life there have four events which I consider to be of great historical significance. The first occurred on Sept. 2, 1945 on board the battleship Missouri, in the Pacific. There, General McCarthy signed the treaty ending WWII and the great evils associated with that war.
Being only two-years-old at the time, I had no idea of the significance of that moment. In later life, as I read thousands of pages on the history of that war, I developed a greater appreciation for that great moment in time.
The second significant historical event of my life occurred in November of 1989. It was on that day the Berlin wall came down. In March of 1966 I had the opportunity of passing through the entrance into East Berlin. The distance between Checkpoint Charlie and the entrance into East Berlin is the greatest lesson I have ever had regarding freedom.
There is nothing here at the checkpoint to impede one's movement, but the concrete barriers can be easily seen in this photo which marked the entrance into East Berlin. What cannot be seen here are the two machine gun placements on each side of the barrier and the several rows of similar barriers behind this one.
On the evening of that day my companion and I stood here looking at the Brandenburg gate. It was beautifully lit and the wall was not yet built in front of it. As we stood watching the many guards with there automatic weapons and dogs a West German police officer approached us and asked us if we knew we were standing in East Berlin. The barriers you see here were not present at that time and the wall was well within East Berlin.
It was not that the destruction of the Berlin Wall was so significant on its own merit, what what the destruction of that wall would preface. Within a short time the USSR would crumble and communism would become a thing of the past in the nations of Eastern Europe.
I will preface the last two most significant historical events on my lifetime with an experience I had as a young boy. My father built our family a beautiful little home in Pasadena, California in 1955. It was a stone's throw from Devil's Gate Dam, and the arroyo that lay behind it. A virtual haven of adventure for a young boy. Almost everyone has indirectly heard of this arroyo because it would later become the home of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Only a few years after moving to Pasadena my parents came home one evening from a neighborhood meeting. I could see my father was very upset and I was old enough to ask him why. He said they had just come from a meeting of the neighbors in the area and the discussion had been regarding the selling of homes in the neighborhood. He said they were told not to sell their home to someone of Japanese descent as they would turn around and sell to a black person. They wouldn't do it on purpose, mind you, they just didn't have the brains keeping them from doing something so abhorrent. His disgust at what had been said formed my attitude about discrimination for the rest of my life. My father was later to engrain his feelings of non-discrimination more deeply within me by calling a man of Japanese descent to serve as his counselor when he was called as bishop.
My children have chided me for being prejudice many times during my life and it is certainly true that I have found many things about individuals of every race of people I did not particularly care for. That is why the next two events may be a surprise to them.
The first occurred on the evening of June 9, 1978. I walked to the mailbox to retrieve the evening newspaper. It was a beautiful late Spring evening. I took the paper out of the box and opened it to look at the headlines, as I always did. What I read caused me to stop dead in my tracks. In a matter of moments, tears were freely flowing from my eyes as I read the news that all worthy male members of the church would be allowed to hold the priesthood. I had never been completely comfortable belonging to a church which seemed to discriminate against people I had been taught not to discriminate against.
The last, at least to this moment, occurred tonight, November 4, 2008. I sat and watched a young man deliver an acceptance speech as the president-elect of the United States of America. His words were inspiring and uplifting and promised hope for the future. The fact that I disagree with many of his political leanings was unimportant. What was important, and almost impossible to believe was that this young man was black. Not just black, but the son of an immigrant from Kenya. The very people my parent's neighbors had sought to keep out of their neighborhood, had just become the next president of the United States.
I am very grateful to have lived to see these moments in time.