Shaun Smith, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, speaks at the annual celebration of the civil rights leader’s life.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the truest sense, said Sen. Betty Little.
“He spoke with power and he spoke eloquently and spoke from the heart, and millions of Americans were inspired to open their hearts,” Little said.
Little spoke at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration Jan. 16 at the Newman Center at Plattsburgh State.
She said the day was a deliberate moment in which people pause to remember the past. It is a history no one shall ever forget, she said.
“As difficult and painful a memory it is, it is also a wonderful day as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King,” Little said. “We are a better people because of his vision.”
Shaun Smith, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, spoke of promoting harmony, understanding and good will. He pointed out that King’s work promoted inclusion, justice and helping others.
King’s work transcended race, Smith said.
Times are tough in the country, especially with the state of the economy. But Smith said no matter what our opinions, we can work together with each other.
“Today,” said Plattsburgh Common Council member Timothy Carpenter, “we are all very important.”
And may we continue to lift up the cause for equality for all, said Rev. Kathleen Crighton, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Plattsburgh.
“He (King) spoke against injustice and envisioned a world where we could be equals.”
But, she said, we still live in a world with injustice.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey wondered after a world in which people could gather and said they made it. She envisioned one in which discrimination would be difficult to find.
“We are not there yet,” she said, echoing Crighton’s sentiments.
Duprey spoke about discrimination and bullying.
“The signs are all around us.”
Instant communication, wonderful in so many ways, makes it easy for bullies to remain anonymous.
“We need to teach kids that bullying is discrimination,” Duprey said. “We can’t wait another day. We can’t lose another child. No child should ever feel his or her only recourse is suicide.”
Fortunately, Duprey has confidence that the next generation will do better than ever has been done before.
“Let’s all work a little harder in 2012 and make our corner of the North Country a safer, more compassionate place to live.”
Yet, every year it seems as if more of King’s dreams disappear, said Don Papson, president of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association.
“Today, Americans routinely assassinate each other’s character.”
There is terrorism, homelessness and so much more dragging people down.
But it is possible to make the world better, Papson said.
“Life is hard, but we must climb the stairs,” he said. “We cannot walk alone. We must walk together, for together, we can change the world.”
Papson has always wanted to change the world and worked toward that goal as a union worker who participated in King’s civil rights movement, the first male primary teacher in Chicago and as a museum director telling stories of freedom.
“If you embrace your dream you will make a difference,” he said. “Let us not wait until someday to fulfill our dreams. Let us embrace our dreams today.”