Wednesday, June 30, 2004

'This Guy is My Hero,' Part Two

Second part of the series, again from NCADP intern Kristen Bell. Please check back on Thursday for more updates on the 11th Annual Fast & Vigil!

After my talk with Mike Kennedy, one of his friends and fellow abolitionists told me that the nerves in Mike’s brain are chronically deteriorating.

Mike’s passion for the abolitionist cause, however, shows no signs of
waning. He sports a t-shirt with two mug shots of George W. Bush that
reads, “Wanted for Murder: Stop all executions.” A sizable hole on the
left-hand side of the shirt makes one wonder if it was made before or after Bush became president. Nevertheless, Mike still wears it with pride.

His speech, usually slow and wavering, became strong and confident when I asked him why he opposes the death penalty.

“The death penalty is a violation of Christian belief and faith…it violates the sanctity of life....Jesus reminded us that he who hasn’t sinned will cast the first stone…When Jesus taught love, he taught mercy,” Mike argued, pausing only to catch his breath. “You can’t delegate God’s power to give and take life to the state. Human beings are imperfect; it is impossible to make a perfect justice system with fallible human reason....One innocent death is too much.”

Mike walks his talk, consistently taking a stand in walks, rallies, and
vigils against capital punishment. In 1990, he joined the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and participated in a march from the death row chamber in Florida to the grave of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Georgia.

“That was when I was a bit more of a healthy, young whippersnapper,” he
laughed, leaning on his wooden cane. That march was also when he met and befriended Bill Pelke and other fellow abolitionists.

“The best part of this [Fast and Vigil] is just the people,” Mike said.
“Bill is my buddy, he looks out for me.”

“We’re sort of like family to him,” said Bill, who likes to joke about
meeting Mike on the march from Florida to Georgia. “Mike would always start up front but then he’d end up at the back after a few hours. Sometimes a car would circle back and give him a ride. Sure enough, he’d always come back up to the front.”

Almost 15 years later, Mike Kennedy still comes back to join his
friends, even if it does take 36 hours on a bus.

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