There are few truly great men and women in history. Sure, we’d all like to make our mark and leave behind something that would cause everyone to say of us, “S/he was a great person!” The reality is, that in the eyes of the world, such will not be said of us.
Perhaps that’s why we tend to put eternal flames on the graves of those who lit up the world in special ways.
Our recent trek across country (those have become far to frequent in the past few years!), one of my Iowa cousins joined us to drive the extra car across country. He hadn’t had a road trip for quite a while so he was eager to accept the invitation.
Once we got here to Atlanta, he requested a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. center. He had been profoundly influenced by the man and was keenly interested in seeing the center.
Every time I go there (I’ve been there 3 times), I have come away dazzled by King’s conviction, courage and oratory. While he, like all of us, was not perfect, he was a giant figure in 20th century America. And perhaps that is why they put an eternal flame near his final resting place – to remind us forever of his brilliance and enduring legacy.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1977, at Baumetes Prison in Marseille, France, Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant convicted of murder, became the last person executed by guillotine.
The guillotine first gained fame during the French Revolution when physician and revolutionary Joseph-Ignace Guillotin won passage of a law requiring all death sentences to be carried out by “means of a machine.” Decapitating machines had been used earlier in Ireland and England, and Guillotin and his supporters viewed these devices as more humane than other execution techniques, such as hanging or firing squad. A French decapitating machine was built and tested on cadavers, and on April 25, 1792, a highwayman became the first person in Revolutionary France to be executed by this method.
The device soon became known as the “guillotine” after its advocate, and more than 10,000 people lost their heads (no pun intended!) by guillotine during the Revolution, including Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette, the former king and queen of France.
Use of the guillotine continued in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the last execution by guillotine occurred in 1977. In September 1981, France outlawed capital punishment altogether, thus abandoning the guillotine forever. There is a museum dedicated to the guillotine in Liden, Sweden.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of 60% more than people with only a high school diploma, which adds up to more than $800,000 over a lifetime.