Political and religious leaders remembered the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on Monday, taking part in an annual celebration recognizing the holiday named for the late civil rights icon.
The service started in front of , with a march proceeding to with a brief stop in front of the . City Councilor Wade Hyslop, who described King as his mentor, told the attendees that they would be able to get many things accomplished if they work together as a community.
During the service, most speakers made calls to action. Rev. Benjamin Green, the pastor of the Evans Memorial AME Zion Church in Norwich and president of the Southeastern Connecticut Ministerial Alliance, said he attends the march because King also marched. Green said he enjoys the freedoms he does today because of King’s work, and encouraged the audience to remember those who fought for their own freedom.
“Hate cannot drive out hate,” said Green. “Only love can do that.”
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer of the said one of King’s concerns was the harm that could be done by the inaction of good people. He asked people to commit to raising standards, providing adequate educational funds, and otherwise supporting New London children.
“Are we waiting for excellence or have we committed ourselves to help make it happen?” asked Fischer.
Mayor Daryl Finizio said he feels King’s dream is embodied by the diversity of New London. He said one goal of his administration will be to ensure that when he appears at the 2013 event that “we have a government here in New London that looks like the people of New London.”
Finizio said that New London is facing difficulties such as underperforming schools and a strained municipal budget, but that the issues are not insurmountable. He said the power to address such matters lies with the residents of the city.
“In the days ahead, in the years ahead, we here in New London will be called upon to answer many challenges,” said Finizio.
Rep. Joe Courtney said people must be vigilant about proposals for voter identification, saying only limited types of IDs would be acceptable. He compared the proposal to poll taxes, which were once used to disenfranchise black voters.
Courtney said he saw King’s dream of a more equal world embodied in a number of events over the past year, including the Occupy Wall Street movement and Arab Spring uprisings.
“The spirit of Dr. King is, in my opinion as I think in everybody’s opinion who watched these events closely, was infused in these events,” said Courtney.
Courtney also presented Bishop Benjamin Watts, the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church, with a commemorative set of red dog tags given at a showing of Red Tails which he attended with veterans. This upcoming movie tells the story of a crew of Tuskegee airmen in World War II.
“I’m not a film critic, but I’ll tell you this: it’s a great movie,” said Courtney.
Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg, of the Temple Emanu-El in Waterford, said the holiday inspires people to tap into their own sources of spirituality and strength.
“The dream is not yet fulfilled. There is still much work to be done, and it inspires us to go forth and make that dream become reality,” said Rosenberg.