Unity breakfast shines light on current issues
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
The keynote speaker at the annual Rocky Mount Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast used the podium to take a different approach to honoring the slain civil rights leader.
Instead of focusing on more notable aspects of King's legacy, such as federal civil and voting rights laws, N.C. Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier spoke about how King might view four issues of the day: Immigration, the environment, health care and education.
Glazier also spoke about King having emphasized the importance of service while speaking at the event, which was held Monday morning at N.C. Wesleyan College.
On the issue of immigration, Glazier said, "We seem to be in our nation no longer a nation known as a welcoming place, a nation of bridges to and from other lands. Now, in the current environment, we seek to replace bridges and open arms with walls and closed fists."
Glazier cited remarks by civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Lewis’ remarks were in the midst of the 50th anniversary of when King was cut down by a sniper in Memphis, Tenn.
Glazier told the gathering that Lewis said King would be speaking up and saying America needs to do the right thing to look out for all people nationwide and saying America is one people and one family.
Glazier said King believed people are made in God's image and said he believes such a factor would have under-girded King's teachings related to immigration.
Glazier said King recognized social justice couldn't be achieved without environmental justice and said King's actions led to the clean air, clean water and endangered species acts.
He also said King spoke about humans' scientific power too often outrunning humans' spiritual power. He noted King having once said, "We have guided missiles, but too often misguided men."
Regarding health care, Glazier noted King blasted the American Medical Association and others for "a conspiracy of inaction" in the maintenance of medical apartheid.
He also pointed out one of King's most notable quotes came when King said, "Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman."
Regarding education, Glazier said in the nearly 51 years since King was assassinated, King's dream of an educational system providing equal opportunity to all children remains unfulfilled.
He said he believes King would say the best chance to impact student achievement isn’t with more standardized tests, more vouchers, more charter schools or the educational reform of the day.
He said he believes King would instead advocate devoting attention, love and time to every child.
Glazier went on to call for emulating King's emphasis on service to others, which he said is an ethical and moral commitment going beyond religious barriers and political ideologies.
"It is helpful for us all to remember that if we had just one more hour to live, it would not be that we would wish for a bigger house, more cyberspace to explore, more money to spend,” he said. "But instead, I suspect it would be to spend one more hour with the family we love, with our friends and to do something to leave the world after us a better place for us having been here."
Michael Hunter, who works in the corporate world, afterward said he believes what Glazier had to say "truly personifies what Dr. King actually stood for."
"And if we truly want to make a change, we have to be intentional about our actions and to be intentional about what we need to do," Hunter said. "I think we all understand and know how to love, but I think we love each other in the way we love each other, versus the way God sees us, which is his love is unconditional. It's limitless and boundless."
Jaedon Kearney, 12, said he believed Glazier's speech was good.
"It's really life-changing," Kearney said. "It gives me a new perspective of how I can be in my community — and how to help others out."
During the event, the Rocky Mount Human Relations Commission presented the panel's 2019 Service to Humanity Award to the Frederick E. Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross.