After watching your son’s documentary I felt compelled to reach out to Mr. McCallum. However, I was unable to find contact information and am hoping that you will forward my comments to him. You sir, are to be commended on raising such a fine young man, who deserves commendation in his own right.
Dear Mr. McCallum:
I recently saw the documentary Fight for Justice: David and Me. Its story, which is your story, is painful and horrific. I know that the pain I felt in learning your story is not even an iota of the pain you, your family, and friends felt for far too long. Yet it is also a story of inspiration, because of your determination to define your life even while behind the bars of a cell.
There are some who may dismiss your story based upon the belief that the claim of your false confession is itself false. However, such people most likely do not have the benefit of personal experience that lends credibility to your claim. You and I lived our teenage years in drastically different places. As young adolescents, you lived in a city gripped by the vice of a crime epidemic while I grew up on idyllic Cape Cod. Although we grew up in different places, we grew up in similar economic circumstances, as my family belonged to the working class poor.
In my early teenage years, I mowed lawns during the summer to earn money and was accused of stealing silver from the home of one of my customers. Admittedly, the offense for which I was accused is trivial compared to the offense you faced; however, this experience provided me with a perspective I have not fully appreciated until I learned your story. To this day, I remember the fear I felt when a police detective grilled me about doing something I knew that I did not do. I was fortunate in that my involvement in the case ended with one interview. I also benefitted from a couple of things you did not: 1.) I was interviewed with my mother present, and 2.) the color of my skin (I am white).
In no way am I trying to compare our experiences, but only to provide a context for how I can empathize with your experience. Learning your story made me face a question I had never asked myself: what if I had been convicted of that offense? Would I have been able to go to college on an academic and athletic scholarship? If I had not been able to go to college, then I obviously would not have been able to attend a prestigious graduate school, again on academic scholarship. There is no question that without my education that my professional accomplishments would never have happened. I raise my academic scholarships not to boast, but rather to use them as an illustration. Despite my abilities, my life may have been sidetracked in ways I cannot imagine if I had been convicted of an offense for which I was accused but entirely innocent.
However this is not the purpose of my writing. The point of the above paragraphs are simply summarized by, but for the Grace of God there go I. The reason I am writing is to thank you. I want to thank you for being the man that you are. To thank you for your courage and grace. Most of all, to thank you for your spirit. Admittedly, the gratitude I express is selfish. It is selfish because I am grateful for your story because it epitomizes the power of hope in uncertain times. Our economy is stagnant, our public discourse is uncivil and even more stagnant, and we live in a country divided in too many ways; like race, class, and gender. Yet your story of facing insurmountable odds with dignity, and refusing to relinquish hope, offers a salve to our wounded times. It is a story of hope and faith in a time when we need hope and the ability to believe more than ever in my lifetime.
I am profoundly sorry for the injustice you endured. It pains me to know of the loss of your freedom during what is consider the best years of your life. However, I do not think those years were lost. As difficult as it was for you to spend those years, you spent them in order to ultimately inspire hope. I cannot imagine the darkest nights you spent in prison, of the pain and loneliness you felt, and there is nothing I can do to assuage that pain or dispel that loneliness. All I can do is offer a humble and sincere thank you for enduring them.
Thank you for your courage and for enduring the incredibly difficult passages of your life’s journey, and for your willingness to share your journey. For your journey enriches us all, and will make profound differences you never imagined and may never know.