On a day which saw President Barack Obama’s second inauguration celebration, Lee’s Summit joined the nation in also remembering Martin Luther King Jr.
The city’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, held at John Knox Village Pavilion, is organized by the Lee’s Summit Human Relations Commission.
The Rev. Lia McIntosh, of Renaissance United Methodist Church and a commissioner, introduced this year’s theme “The Time is Always Right to Do Right” a quote from King.
McIntosh set the scene for two speakers following, who reflected on quotes from a King’s speech “The Other America” made at Grosse Pointe High School, March 14, 1968, sponsored by the Grosse Pointe Human Relations Council. There King faced threats and hecklers. The atmosphere was so tense that the Grosse Pointe Farms police chief rode on King’s lap on the way to the school gymnasium to shield him.
King was calling for America to get out of the Vietnam War and for economic justice, as well as equal rights. He was assassinated a few weeks later.
“That time was not as celebratory as ours,” McIntosh said. “We sit here in honor of all that Dr. King went through.”
Stanley Beatty spoke about how in King’s words “freedom is a bonus you receive for telling the truth.”
Beatty noted Obama’s inauguration, saying, “It’s a good time to be an American today...this is a time for our country to come together and make a difference in all our lives.”
Beatty said truth and freedom depend on each other. He said King spoke the truth about America which was “neither pretty nor flattering” because of institutional racism and economic disparity.
During the Grosse Pointe speech King condemned those injustices, calling for militant non-violence, but also denouncing riots.
“These would be unpopular subjects today, imagine how they’d be in 1968,” Beatty said. “People who fled oppression became oppressors. That’s a difficult truth.”
He said speaking an unsettling truth promotes healing.
“No matter how much she strays away from it, the goals of America are freedom” Beatty said, quoting King.
Sabrin Qadi said King was a man of integrity who sparked a movement of non-violence.
She quoted King “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
She said integrity as a character trait requires both recognizing what is right and wrong, but also requires action.
King was successful in moving a nation to end segregation, Qadi said.
“Let us all keep paying it forward,” she said.
About 150 people attended the celebration which included remarks by Mayor Randy Rhoads and Councilmember Bob Johnson, cultural exhibits and performances by the Lee’s Summit High School Jazz Band and Drumline and Color Guard by the Lee’s Summit North High School Air Force Jr. ROTC. Daniel Ratigan, from Lee’s Summit West High School sang the national anthem. Another highlight was a presentation of King’s “I have a Dream” speech by pupils from Kiddie Kollege Primary School, from Kansas City, Kan.