Speakers: King’s dream being realized

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Speakers at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Rowan County Monday morning spoke often of the connection between King’s legacy and the historic presidential inauguration that will take place Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
On the eve of history, the Rev. Whayne Hougland Jr. said, it was appropriate for the community to come together ó 700 strong ó as King’s inclusive and sometimes elusive dream for a nation becomes “somewhat more real” with Barack Obama’s pending presidency.
Hougland, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and vice chairman of the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council, said he thought back to the scene at Grant Park in Chicago when hundreds of thousands of people of all races gathered to celebrate the election of Obama.
“I thought, that’s the America I want to live in,” Hougland recalled of seeing the crowd on television.
And as part of Monday’s diverse breakfast crowd, overflowing at The Event Center off Webb Road, Hougland said, “This is the community I want to live in.”
This year’s breakfast, the 23rd annual gathering on the King holiday, was moved to Cornerstone Church’s Event Center because the crowds had outgrown the Salisbury Civic Center.
The good news Monday was that “we’re already pushing the seams of this place,” Hougland said.
It’s simply a sign of a healthy community, he added.
Guest speaker Sara White, widow of pro football Hall of Famer Reggie White, said many people of her generation remembered King’s death first and actually learned more about his life once he was gone.
As she and others learned of his life’s work, White said, “It was almost like he was still alive.”
White, a Charlotte Realtor and broker and president of Urban Hope in Green Bay, Wisc., said faith and fear can be similar emotions.
“Don’t let yourself be blurred by fear,” White said, mindful that today many people are scared of losing their jobs and homes and worried about the economy in general.
“But faith says your best days are ahead,” White said.
King never showed his fears in public. He also surrounded himself with positive people who could speak victory about his life, White said.
While King no doubt had naysayers among his closest associates who told him to be careful about the things he said and did, White said, he kept going, knowing his actions were going to impact the world.
White said her challenge to those in the audience wasn’t to change the world but start by bringing change to their neighborhoods, families, networks and communities.
She said many people are stuck and resisting change. Nature always changes, and people should, too, she said. “It’s what we do with that change that counts,” White added.
Ken Mills, vice president of marketing for Food Lion, described King as one of the most “impactful people” in the nation and on many people’s lives. This year’s King Day observance, marking the year he would have been 80 years old and falling the day before Obama takes office, “is exciting beyond words, Mills said.
“I can feel it in the room here today,” Mills said.
Mills said King left a legacy of hope and opportunity, and the country needs hope today the way it did when King spoke of his dream 40-plus years ago.
City and county officials read proclamations officially making Monday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Salisbury and Rowan County.
Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said even though he belongs to a different political party than Obama, he will be praying for the new president.
“He needs the unqualified support of all of us as Americans,” Ford said. “… It’s not about race. It’s about God’s amazing grace.”
Salisbury City Councilman Mark Lewis said “if we could recognize ourselves in one another,” it might help restore hope and opportunity, leading to a better country in the process.