HARTFORD – Pastors, choirs, community members and politicians from across Connecticut filled the capital building Monday morning to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who would have been 81 years old this year.
The 24th Annual National Liberty Bell Celebration, sponsored by the Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, drew in one of the event’s largest crowds according to Commission Chairperson Dennis James King.
King told the audience that attending such an event was an opportunity for people to remember who they are, what they stand for, and where they are going.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who delivered welcoming remarks at the celebration, said Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was a message of compassion and courage.
“…Honestly, I think (compassion) is the best part of our humanity, it’s what allows us to connect with each other,” she said. “And courage allows us to do what we must do in the face of great strife, and I think we would all agree that there is no greater time when our kindness and caring matters most, than in the darkest of moments.”
Rell, referring to the recent earthquake in Haiti, asked the crowd to be empathetic and keep those in mind who are in Haiti, both as residents and as rescue workers.
“Now more than ever they need our support and comfort as they rebuild their lives,” she said.
He said as violence increases, as the economy struggles and as people fight for health care, it’s easy to lose faith.
“I wonder, today, if Dr. King were alive, what would he think of this world?,” Brooks said. “Would he still espouse hope in a world that seems destroyed? … I would think that he would.”
Hope, Brooks said, equals opportunity.
“There are those who have passed before us Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Du Bois…Rosa Parks…they line up the pathway that tells us you can still have hope, you can still make it, you don’t have to give up, you don’t have to throw in the towel, you don’t have to despair,” he said.
The state’s political leaders applauded Brooks, including Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who said Martin Luther King Jr. would be fighting for the uninsured and unemployed if he were still alive.
“We have a lot of work still do to, his legacy to us is that that unfinished business has to be done,” he said. “We can have hope because Martin Luther King (Jr.) said the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice…”
The Commission concluded the ceremony by recognizing those in the community who continue King’s fight for justice.
UConn football coach Randy Edsall was given the leadership award, Dr. James Lewis III, of New Opportunities Inc., was given the Humanitarian Award, My Sister’s Place Inc. was given the Community Service Award and Parkville Community School was given the Chairman’s Award.
See more photos here.
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