Living the dream
Throughout the 1950's and 60's, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left an indelible mark on the history of the United States of America, blazing the trail that helped African-Americans put an end to segregation and reach the equality they so greatly deserved.
Dr. King's strong passion, great vision, teachings and incredible resilience toward achieving his dreams are carried in the hearts and attitudes of many of today's great African-American leaders, including SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long.
"Dr. King's teachings influenced a lot of black people, not just me," Long said. "To be specific, his words taught me how to be a better man, how to stand on my own two feet, to speak up and fight for what is right."
For SmackDown viewers each week, the General Manager's office on has a picture that hangs prominently on the wall: Dr. King's. The reasoning, says Long, is simple: "That picture says something and means something. Dr. King made it all possible for me."
Things were not so easy for Theodore Long growing up in Birmingham, Al.
"The 16th Street bombings that killed four young girls happened just a couple blocks away from where I was, and on my birthday [September 15]. I was right in the heart of it all," he said.
The connections to the civil rights movement do not stop there, as these days, Long resides in Atlanta, Ga., the birthplace of Dr. King.
"I'm always going to the gravesite, to the Martin Luther King Center, because that has great things to see," he continued. "I also take people there when they come to visit me. It is just an honor to now live where Martin Luther King Jr. was born."
Theodore Long carries that pride with him as he continues to make history in a business that years ago wouldn't afford him the same opportunities he has today. He is quick to point out, "I have to thank God."
Though not one to brag about his accomplishments, he has culminated an impressive list: "I was the first African-American General Manager in WWE history, and I've also been the longest running. I managed Ron Simmons and Butch Reed as they became the first ever African-American World Tag Team Champions; and of course Ron Simmons went on to become the first African-American World Heavyweight Champion."
Long's own personal dream continues to inspire many WWE fans, though he insists he is not a role model. "I don't want to leave a mark," he said. "I don't want people to have to struggle like I did. I don't want people to try to be like me; I want people who would look up to me to become better than me, to outshine what I have done in this business and in my life."
Throughout his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. found power through his words, and General Manager Theodore Long has done the same, leading the Superstars of SmackDown the past two years. Long's real wisdom comes through his message to all Americans: "For we must not ever forget where we come from. Let us come together and be as one. Let us help those less fortunate. Let's keep our streets clean and our children safe, away from drugs and gangs, and let us all rise to be better people. Racism is still alive, and until we can end racism and get along as human beings, the dream of Dr. King has not yet fully come true."
African-American men like Theodore Long have become the standard by which all men, regardless of color, strive to be. And that, in itself, is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream becoming a reality.