Remarks at the Rev. Martin Luther King Celebration
Today, we celebrate an extraordinary life. Although it’s been over 50 years since Dr. King’s passing, he remains alive in us, he is a part of each one of us in countless ways. We would not be here today in each other’s company, sharing, loving, dreaming, had it not been for the revolution of the human spirit that exposed the great inequities of civil rights. It was his leadership and vision that has been a guide, a map, a finely calibrated moral compass that has showed us how to open doors, open hearts, navigate rough terrain, and lead us to our own dream.
In Dr. King’s final speech, he spoke of a promised land, he was specifically speaking about the hope and aspiration of our country. He was speaking about the promise of equality, the promise of freedom, and the dream that made our country a democracy. The reality is that this is no easy task and each generation has been often blind and challenged to honor the truth of the promise that defines us. The abolishment of slavery, woman’s rights, the rights of emigrants and minorities, voter rights, freedom of information and government transparency, the protection of children, the protection of our environment, the promise of healthcare for all, are some of the struggles and issues that have confronted us since we embarked on this great journey to our promised land.
We are not there yet and there’s still much to be done, but it was Dr. King’s clear message and his role at a key time in our history that laid a foundation. I think of the words that Christ offered to his apostle Peter in Matthew 16:18, “Now I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” In the same way Dr. King has given us a rock to build on, the stable footing that empowers true social change.
When I think of our own community and the changes that have occurred over time, they represent the significant role and the legacy of Dr. King. When I visit a classroom and see the diversity of our student population or on any given day see young families of every color enjoying their Community, I am heartened, I am happy. When I go to a shop owned by someone who has come to this country to make a new life, I recognize that something good has happened here, something powerful and present, yet speaks of a future and hope. We have awakened and we are moving forward to that place that Dr. King spoke of when he said, “I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land. So, I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything.”
The above column, written by Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, has been published in the Jan. 22 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch.