Tribute to a Great American Hero: Ambassador Andrew Young

Andrew Jackson Young, Jr. was born in 1932 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Andrew Young, Sr. and Daisy Fuller Young.

In those years, the world looked a lot different than it does today.

People whose skin color was not white were not allowed to vote, to use the same restaurants and facilities or schools. The world was segregated and divided based on race, the color of one’s skin.

Andy, as he was called by his friends, grew as a leader and attended seminary school to be a preacher, one of the few leadership roles available to him and other people of color at this time.

Through his work and shared devotion, he became a close companion and collaborator with Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and marched alongside him, even to Memphis, where Dr. King was slain.

Andy Young, undeterred, continued to work to implement the dream of love, temperance and equality so eloquently orated by Dr. King in his famous speech, and is today one of the world’s leading advocates for justice, unity and mutually respectful race relations as a function of our shared humanity.

Along the way, Andrew Young served as U.S. Congressman, was named the first African American Ambassador to the United Nations appointed by President Carter, and later served as Mayor of the City of Atlanta, where he is largely responsible for the world class reputation the city enjoys today.

I had the honor of spending a little time with Ambassador Young as a guest and performer at three of his gala birthday celebrations and fundraisers over the years, thanks to the introduction from Cappriccieo Scates and Penice Le Gall of SESAC Atlanta, and have been privileged to receive his candid advice.

At the last gala I attended, Ambassador admonished the audience, and especially those in his family, to be careful of the insidiousness of separativeness.

Instead of division and in fighting, Ambassador’s simple solution was to focus on our commonality, and not to allow ourselves to be misled by anger, holding to grievances, nor to be divided by race.

At every turn, Andrew Young seeks to help the cause of advancing human rights as a function of civil rights, and celebrates collaboration and friendships among all people.

At a recent interview, Ambassador cautioned the attendees to remember, it is with the contributions of all people that our collective rights are respected.

During this weekend’s Civil Rights Pioneers Recognition Awards Program event in Fort Worth, Texas that honored Ambassador along with the Honorable John Lewis, Mrs. Xerona Clayton, and Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, Ambassador’s legacy of patience, hope and humor in the face of adversity was celebrated.

One of the esteemed leaders commented that decency and love appear to him as “un-American” qualities, and who can blame him for thinking so, in reflection of his own experience as a man of color, whose ancestors were not only forcibly displaced from their homes and brought here, but who were also made to suffer as slaves without rights, wages or even names.

Ambassador stands in contrast to this sentiment, and continues through positive work and tireless example to lay the solid foundation for cooperation among different people, races and creeds through his steadfast Christian values.

At Ambassador’s last gala I attended, he took a few moments aside to give me some advice, and I paraphrase here –

“You can’t stop and help every derelict on the road to Jericho. You have a good, giving heart and want to help others, but you are called to the end of the road. You cannot tarry along the way side helping everyone with their hands out. You have to get to your destination. You can always come back and help others after you get to where you are going.”

These words struck a chord in me that rings true today.

We are all called to service in own ways and capacities, and have a destination to achieve.

In the Bible, Jesus tells the disciples to “Go your way… and salute no man by the way,” echoing those wise words from Ambassador Young.

In regards to the Civil Rights Movement, and its modern day continuation, Ambassador reminds us that many of the earliest supporters who helped it to be successful were in fact white people. At a recent interview, Ambassador cautioned against discrimination of all types, especially based on the color of one’s skin, a quality that is not chosen by those whose who are moved to serve.

It is an honor to write this tribute to the great man, Andrew Young, a Great Amercian Hero, and crusader for truth, justice and peaceful action to uplift all people out of poverty and despair.

As his motto suggests, “For unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required” – Luke 12:48.

Here is a call to action for those with ears to hear, to ensure that future generations do not see skin color and race as a boundary along which to be divided, but rather as an opportunity to collaborate, learn and grow from our shared human experience.

Thank you to Ambassador Andrew Jackson Young for your devoted service to humanity. You are a world treasure. May your work be blessed and fruitful in all things good.

“And everything is made all right

By Mahalia’s “Sweet little Jesus Boy”

That same Jesu: Bach’s joy of man’s desiring

And God’s bounteous goodness

Is revealed in the Beautiful Garden

Where all the flowers bloom together in spiritual splendor”

- From “Resurrection Morning” a poem by Andrew Young, 1995

Photos from the commemorative program for Andrew Young's 75th Birthday Celebration credit Andrew J. Young Foundation.

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