Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday Commemoration
January 18, 2013
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor to be here to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and to present the 8th Annual Baltimore County Content of Character Awards. Thank you to Reverend Dr. Ann Lightner-Fuller and the congregation of Mt. Calvary AME Church for welcoming us as their guests for this very special celebration.
I also thank Delegate and Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones for her role once again, for the eighth year, in spearheading this Content of Character Award Ceremony. We are also pleased to be joined by Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance, and appreciate the fine baritone Master of Ceremony duties by County Recreation and Parks Director Barry Williams. We also welcome Baltimore County Council members and department heads who have joined us today.
We are also very proud and appreciative of the extremely talented Milford Mill Concert Chorale led by Director Thaddeus Price, and the stoic presentation of the Milford Mill Academy Marine JROTC.
Dual Celebrations - Historical and Present
This Monday, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday honoring the remarkable life and prolific work of one of the greatest Civil Rights leaders the world has ever known. How fitting that in this very date of this year, 2013, we will also be celebrating the inauguration of our 44th – and first African-American – President of the United States. When President Obama raises his right hand to "faithfully execute the office of president," his left hand will be resting on a worn black leather Bible, with a slight tear on the cover, that Martin Luther King Jr. carried with him during his rise as a civil rights leader.
This contrast of historical with the present allows us a great opportunity to consider Dr. King’s vast importance to the history of our country and to the evolution of our nation’s collective conscience.
"The Fierce Urgency of Now"
We are here today to commemorate the life and legacy of a man who changed this country for the better; a man who, in the face of great adversity, taught our nation that we had yet to live up to the true meaning of the very principles on which our country was founded; a man who demonstrated for the world the great power of peaceful protest and, in his words, “the fierce urgency of Now.”
Dr. King said, in 1967:
"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood – it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." "
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. knew too well what it meant to live with broken promises. Born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, he was no stranger to the grave injustices and unspeakable hardships that were typical of African-American life in the United States.
Targets of extreme discrimination, Dr. King and millions of others were not only denied equality, true citizenship, and many basic rights, they often were victims of horrific acts of violence, and were forced to live under conditions that no man, woman or child should ever have to endure.
Defying those odds, Dr. King sprang into action at a very early age, beginning a journey that would not only change his life but the lives of countless others. After attending segregated public schools, skipping two grades during high school and enrolling in Morehouse College at the age of 15, he graduated and went on to Crozer Theological Seminary and then Boston University, completing his doctoral dissertation all by the age of 25.
A devout clergyman and activist who encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience, Dr. King grew into the Civil Rights leader who inspired the Movement, and the nation, to take action, and his many great accomplishments changed the landscape of our society. The youngest person in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 at the young age of 39.
Yes, Dr. King knew about urgency; about the importance of taking immediate action. He had his finger on the pulse of history, and throughout his life, he knew that now is the time to act.
So what is today’s “now?” We have expanded the concept of civil rights to beyond that of race. It is Now one of Ethnicity – as witnessed by Maryland voters authorizing college tuition benefits to those on our soil who are not citizens. It is Now one of Sexual Preference – as witnessed by Maryland voters authorizing marriages between homosexuals. It is Now one of Creed – as witnessed by civil strife over religious beliefs in Iraq. It is Now one of Freedom and Democracy, as witnessed by angst in Syria and Egypt.
When Martin Luther King Jr. and the members of the Civil Rights Movement moved us by the “urgency of now,” little did we know that the same concept would repeat itself over and over today, in ways that we could not have imagined back then.
But despite our progress along the way, if Dr. King were here today, he would remind us that there’s still much work to be done. He would urge us to work harder to ease discord and to fight injustice in our communities. And he would lead us to bring an end to the culture of violence tearing communities apart across not just our nation, but our globe.
And I know, without a doubt, that he would tell us that now is the time to act. Now is the time to commit ourselves to unity, compassion, and service to our fellow citizens. Now is the time to usher in a new era of hope and friendship among Americans for future generations to enjoy.
Content of Character
And how, you ask, do we accomplish this? By following Dr. King’s lead, as today’s Content of Character Award recipients have done. Today’s awardees do not hesitate, or make excuses. Each of them has a history of taking immediate action to make a significant impact on his or her community.
These honorees know that Martin Luther King Jr. left behind a blueprint for change through his words and by his actions. They fully understand what Dr. King was saying when he told us, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
They know that Dr. King assigned each and every one of us with the responsibility of making justice a reality for all, stressing the great importance of maintaining diligence in our work to fulfill the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Dr. Marlene Mahipat
And today’s Content of Character award recipients have done just that. Dr. Marlene Mahipat came to this country with very little and faced many struggles on her path to success, working three jobs and doing charity work while attending school full-time. Now, not only is she a practicing chiropractor, she is the founder of two nonprofit organizations and devotes most of her free time to helping others in any way she can.
Rashad Holloway is a proud father of two who often brings his sons along when he volunteers his time mentoring students and working with organizations to fight homelessness, cancer and domestic violence. Rashad is not only committed to service, but he understands the importance of teaching the value of service to his children, setting an example for future generations.
And speaking of future generations, our student awardees, Radhika Patel and Jacob Badin, raise the bar every day, setting a fine example for their peers to follow. Radhika volunteers at her temple and local hospitals. She also serves as a tutor and works with her school’s Green Club to clean up the Bay and educate others about the importance of preserving and protecting the environment.
Considering his age, Jacob is a seasoned veteran of volunteerism. Since middle school, he has served an astounding 1,123 hours as a volunteer, doing everything from helping out at his school to working as a camp counselor and assisting with various charity events. He and all of today’s award recipients are truly remarkable citizens of Baltimore County and are most deserving of the recognition they’re receiving today.
Honor Dr. King's Memory
Dr. King told us that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
So, don’t be silent. Stand up for what’s right. Let the voice of justice be heard, for now is the time. I think that is the best way to truly honor the life and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.