FOX47 NEWS - Taking Part in the Dream

Jeff Angileri
Jan 19, 2009, 10:56 PM

Many people are calling Barack Obama's inauguration the culmination of a dream that began more than 40 years ago.

Ed Garvey and Jim Zwerg were both Wisconsin college students when the civil rights movement called to them.

They literally risked their lives to show people that color is only skin deep.

Madison attorney and UW graduate Ed Garvey met Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior in Atlanta in 1961, following a sit-in protest.

We shook hands, introduced ourselves as students from the north who had come to the south to work with him, Garvey said. At the time I didn't know he was Martin Luther King, Junior -- he was a very prominent minister who was active in the civil rights movement.

He was a humble, modest man, according to Garvey -- and a pillar of silent strength in dangerous times -- when civil rights activists often faced off against police.

To be quite honest we were scared, he said. I don't know if you've ever looked a german shepherd in the face, but we weren't too excited to see them.

Beloit College graduate Jim Zwerg saw violence first hand. As a freedom rider, he traveled the southern states in buses challenging segregation. During one such ride in Alabama, he and his fellow activists were attacked by an angry mob.

People came at us screaming, 'get 'em, kill 'em,' Zwerg said. I basically knew at that instant we were going to be in for a beating.

He woke up two days later in a hospital. Despite the violence, racism, and prejudice, both Garvey and Zwerg say Dr. King's message of peaceful protest never left them. More than 40 years after the Civil Rights Act, they think Dr. King would've loved to see a black man take the oath of office.

Kings last speech where he said he'd seen the promised land and he said this was going to bring about the change -- he'd be thrilled to see Barack Obama elected president, Garvey said.

Said Zwerg, Our anthem, our song was, 'we shall overcome.' Now we look at the challenge of today and there's a new call, 'yes we can.'

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