In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and made history by delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to more than 250,000 people in Washington, D.C.
It’s been more than 50 years since that special moment, but millions worldwide are still making that dream possible. During a Monday celebration of the civil rights icon, community members, from all walks of life, shared their dreams too. The Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce’s Multi-Cultural Business Committee hosted its 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Business Reception at the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center.
In front of a packed audience, 13-year-old Christopher Murphy, of First Baptist Church, was the first to share his dream after citing a portion from King’s.
“I have a dream to graduate from high school and college and major in history,” Murphy said.
Adults followed and shared their history and dreams too. Jacqueline Howard, of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, spoke about her dream of becoming an educator and the obstacles she overcame to achieve, with help from others.
“Please, reach out to someone,” she said. “Find someone that you can mentor and for the children, don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Do your very best.”
Sherry Matthews, publisher of the Sampson Independent, talked about her dreams of becoming a journalist and the challenges she faced being a woman in the newspaper business.
“My advice to anybody, young or young at heart, is to always hold on to your dreams, believe in yourself, and never let your circumstances define who you are,” Matthews said. “Always define your circumstances by what you do.”
The Rev. Dr. Randy Simmons, of Holly Grove Church of Christ, spoke about his goal and dream to be a educated full-time pastor, and the struggles he had toward achieving it. Being a Native American in a poor community, his parents had little education. He was also born with a speech impediment. But he had support along the way and ultimately obtained degrees and became a church leader.
“I had struggles, I had success and I give God all the honor and glory and praise him for that,” Simmons said.
Rep. Larry M. Bell, talked about his dreams of becoming a classroom teacher. Years later, Bell also became a coach, administrator and state lawmaker. Like the other presenters, Bell also had a support system.
“My dream was fulfilled,” Bell said.
Bell met King in 1960, shook his hand and listened to an unforgettable speech. He also advised young people to work hard for successful outcomes.
“There’s no place where you can find that success comes before work, except in the dictionary,” Bell said, borrowing a quote from a mentor.
Dr. Ted Thomas of the Multi-Cultural Business Committee said the individuals were selected to share their dream. But every one present, has one too, he said.
“Each one of you have a story, each one you have a dream that you will fulfill and have not fulfilled,” Thomas said. “One thing Dr. Martin Luther King wanted is for this country to come together, where there’s no more division in this country, where we all stand together as one.”
Next, he asked everyone to stand together and say “I have a dream” in unison to end discrimination, inequality and being separate because of cultural differences.
Nicole Edwards of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. spoke about how King improved race relations throughout the United States.
“As you continue walking through life, don’t quote the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Live it,” Edwards said. “Embody his spirit, help your neighbor, embrace his beliefs and fight for justice.”
Kaitlin Norris Adkins, executive director of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, said the purpose of the event was to honor King and others who made sacrifices to ensure that the country lives up to the true meaning of its creed — that all men and women are created equal.
“We remember and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King for his commitment to equality to justice, humanity and to social change,” Adkins said. “No one did that with more passion and grace than Dr. King.”
Clinton Mayor Lew Starling said he believes there is no better snapshot of race relations in America than President Barack Obama’s recent farewell address, where he said “hearts must change.” Starling urged the audience to get out of their comfort zone and visit other churches, an unknown neighbor, making new friends and reaching out to others in their time of need. He also pointed the importance of understanding the challenges and obstacles of others.
“That is our challenge,” Starling said. “We’ve gone too far to come back. We must go forward and I think our president gave us an excellent direction of what we need to do.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.