Summary: ... what are YOU going to do to address the challenges we still experience as it relates civil/human rights?



17 JANUARY 2005

Mayor LePage, Muriel Scott, Deborah Silva, Debbie Halm, Rabbi Krinsky, Pastor Anderman, Wayne Theriault, Waterville Rotary Club, Ethnic Vocal Ensemble, Jody Rich, Distinguished guest, family and friends ... good morning.

I consider it an honor to stand before you this morning as we gather to celebrate the 76th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birth.

I would like to start my remarks by saying thanks to each and every one of you. Most people will spend this day like the close of most long weekends ... hanging out with the kids at the local movie theater; or catching up on those odd job around the house or just lounging around the family room watching the latest DVD releases. Most kids will see this day as any other day out of school ... they will enjoy it because it is another day without homework.

Now, I’m not saying that those things are bad ... but if you know anything about history ... this day [Martin Luther King Jr., Birthday celebration] demands a trip into our history and that we pause for a few hours of our busy day to pay homage to a man who meant so much to so many.

I thank you for being here today ... because your present symbolizes your stand for justice and equality for all, and that you are not willing to sit down in complacency or lay in the wallows of the status quo. After all, if we [American’s] don’t celebrate and recognize our history ... then who will?

The national theme for this birthday celebration is: “Remember! Act! Celebrate! A Day On, Not A Day off!”

As I was preparing myself to speak to you this morning. I pondered on numerous occasions as to what I would say to you. Although, I done this before ... I still find this speech challenging. How can I ... someone who was not even born before Dr. Kings’ assignation, a boy from in Chattanooga, Tennessee even begin to pontificate the impact of the life of a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and what he meant to so many people -- not just Americans but people all around the world.

This task is difficult because, I stand here today too young to understand what my ancestors had to endure. You see, being born in March 1968, my young eyes never had the opportunity to see the separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks; colored balconies in movie theaters. Too young to understand how a tired and thoroughly respectable Negro seamstress, named Rosa Parks could be thrown into jail and fined simply because she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus so a white man could sit down. Maybe I’m just to young ... to understand how, a six-year-old black girl named Ruby Bridges could be hectored and spit on by a white New Orleans mob simply because she wanted to go to the same school as white children. Maybe, I’m just to young to understand how a 14-year-old black boy like Emmett Till could be hunted down and murdered by a Mississippi gang simply because he had supposedly made suggestive remarks to a white woman.

Somebody might be saying those were isolated situations. Things like that didn’t happen to everybody ... well those of you old enough, think back and remember how, even highly educated blacks were routinely denied the right to vote or serve on juries. Maybe I’m just too young to fell the pain that my ancestors felt when they could not eat at lunch counters, register in motels or use whites-only rest rooms; when they could not buy or rent a home wherever they chose. To young to understand how in some rural enclaves in the South, how they were even compelled to get off the sidewalk and stand in the street if a Caucasian walked by.

Some of you here today are even younger than I and it may seem hard for you also to believe these were examples of conditions in the America that we call “the land of the free” and “home of the brave” ... less than 40 years ago.

Then I got to thinking ... that this task is not to difficult because even though I was not around during Dr. King’s life time, I still have a lot to be thankful for ... I have something to celebrate. Although, my 36-year-old body never felt the pressure of a fire hose, nor felt the bite of a German Shepard’s teeth nor the sting of a policeman’s Billy club. I stand here today because of thousands upon thousands of courageous men and women like Dr. King.

Although, I enjoy liberties today ... theses young eyes of mine never thought that the freedoms I enjoy would actually cost. I thought as a very young man, that freedom was just that “free.” Then I discovered that nothing in life is free. The Salvation that I so freely enjoy cost my Savior Jesus His life; standing up for justice cost Dr. King his life; the right to vote cost thousands their lives.

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