AS BARACK Obama visits Ireland for the first time as president, I am reminded of a simple gesture of kindness that altered the course of American history.
In October 1960, Dr Martin Luther King jnr was roused from bed in the middle of the night on trivial charges stemming from his protests against racial segregation. King was denied bail and sentenced to four months of hard labour in a Georgia prison camp, which many feared he might not survive, either by lynching or by a convenient “accident”. This was not, on the turbulent surface of the times, John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s problem. The Massachusetts senator was locked in a close race for the White House. If he had any chance to win, he needed to keep the support of white Southern Democrats – Southern Democrats who, for the most part, hated everything that Martin Luther King stood for."