I travel for the "wow" experience. Niagara Falls made me go "wow!" But some memories of my travels are much more subtle. My tour of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama was one of those.
The tour was a filler activity. I had done the two activities I had planned between breakfast and lunch,
and still had time left over until the scheduled lunch. Those activities -- The Rosa Parks and Hank Williams Museums -- I'll discuss later. I want to discuss my privilege of receiving a tour of the State Capitol from Aroine Irby, pictured below:
So what makes Aroine so special? Well, just the fact that a black man can lead a tour in a place with such a history of racial prejudice is noteworthy. The fact that he is living history -- he told me about listening to Dr. William King, Jr., speak; about marching from Selma to Montgomery; about being on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday -- is noteworthy. But what he told me that was most noteworthy is that he was prohibited as a youth from even entering the very building around which he guided me!
To me, this embodies the very concepts of heroism. Here is a man -- one of many men and women whom I will never meet -- who took real risks to live a life of a level of quality they deemed worth living. And, having succeeded in being instrumental in achieving that quality of life, continues to give to others, to ensure that quality of life for others. Aroine is continuing to give to the same state government, the same building, in which he faced prejudice I can, at best, imagine. It is through the continued efforts of men such as Aroine Irby -- such unsung heroes -- that today's youth have less obstacles to face than he had. He makes the world better, just by showing up to do his job everyday -- a job he couldn't do for free as a young man.
He added an unplanned moment to my vacation -- one I will never forget. If you go to Montgomery and take a tour of the State Capitol, it will be a real treat to be guided in that tour by Aroine Irby.