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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

Martin Luther King Day
January 13, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to be here with all of you to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Before I go any further, I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Karen Bethea, Pastor Linwood Bethea, and everyone here at the Set the Captives Free Outreach Center for welcoming us as their guests today. I also want to thank the Milford Mill Concert Choir for lending their formidable talents to our ceremony.

A Perfect World

In a perfect world, none of us would be here today. This would be a wholly unremarkable Friday where we would all go about our business as usual. In a perfect world, Martin Luther King Jr. would be an 83 year old man, who had lived a long, untroubled life as a respected pastor, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, tending to the needs of his congregation and his family. But Dr. King did not live in a perfect world.

He lived in a world where even a nation founded upon the principle that “all men are created equal” discriminated on the basis of something as insignificant as the color of one’s skin. He lived in a world where hate denied him and millions of others the rights and liberties that were their birthright as American citizens. “Hate,” Dr. King once said, “destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

The Effects of Hate

Hate had twisted Dr. King’s world into a place that is almost beyond the comprehension of anyone who did not live through it and experience its brutal effects firsthand. Prejudice and discrimination permeated too much of America, from water fountains to the voting booth.

It would have been entirely understandable if Dr. King had chosen to confront this hatred with more hate. After all, much of human history tells the story of the spiral of hate and violence, where one leads to the other. However, Dr. King understood the futility of bitterness and recrimination even in the face of injustice. And he had the courage to call for an end to that cycle. “Hatred paralyzes life,” he said. “Love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

Rise up with Kindness, Compassion and Reason

And so, Dr. King, alongside countless other brave Americans of every color and creed, rose up and met the hate that had so twisted this country with kindness, compassion, and reason. Finally, through peaceful but persistent acts like orderly marches in the streets, sitting at lunch counters, and exercising their right to vote, they forced an entire nation to confront its sins. And as a result, they transformed this country not into a perfect one, but one which is a fairer, more just place to live.

Martin Luther King Jr. did not have the life he deserved. If he did, he would not have been taken from those he loved by the hate he himself had fought against. However, none of us live in a perfect world. Though immeasurable progress has been made in the years since Dr. King so tragically left us, there is still hate all around us.

Hatred continues to fuel discrimination around the world, including here in America. Sadly, this kind of hatred will never truly go away. There will always be people who will look for reasons, no matter how petty, to demean those who are different than them. However, if we have learned anything from Dr. King it is that, if there will always be those who darken our lives with their hate, then there must always be those who will illuminate our lives with love and understanding.

An Example and Beacon

Martin Luther King Jr. will always stand as an example and a beacon, helping us find the path that leads away from darkness and towards the kind of world that we still seek, the kind of world that Dr. King wanted for his own children, the kind of world that all children deserve. 

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