By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
Former President Bill Clinton, founder and Chairperson of Urban One Cathy Hughes and activist and Parkland Shooting Warrior Aalayah Eastmond, were a few of the six notable “The Dream: 2020 King Day Honorees,” at the National Action Network’s (NAN) “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast,” on Jan. 20 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Northwest, D.C.
With the help of powerful actor, author and motivational speaker Hill Harper serving as master of ceremonies, NAN and its founder the Rev. Al Sharpton, paid tribute to the life of Dr. King and the contributions of living legends and modern activists and leaders, who are paving the way for a stronger, safer and equal United States.
“It is important that on Dr. King’s day we do things in the spirit of Dr. King,” Sharpton said as the breakfast began.
Offering a glimpse of local and national ‘who’s whos’, in addition to the honorees, respected guests from politics, activism and cherished organizations were all present for the breakfast, including District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“I want to offer a special welcome to President Clinton, a special welcome to Martin Luther King III and his family and give our great appreciation to the King family,” Bowser said.
The Civil Rights hero’s son, King III, spoke about the need of continuing his father’s legacy, a sentiment echoed throughout the event.
“The power really is in the people, however we don’t really seem to know that. While we haven’t had a lot of celebratory periods, like Rev. [Sharpton] said, on this holiday we need to consider recommitting ourselves, rededicating ourselves to the work, because it is nowhere near done,” King III said.
President Clinton emphasized the need to take action as the King federal holiday is celebrated. He considered the moment 25 years ago when he signed the legislation that made the federal holiday an official Day of Service.
“In my first term I signed a bill that said MLK Day would now be a Day of Service. I want to recognize the late John Conyers, who introduced that bill for 15 years,” the former President said, garnering a huge round of applause.
He talked about the notion of MLK Day being a “day on, not a day off.”
“I still remember what I did when John Lewis said that Rev. Sharpton noted there should be a ‘day on, not a day off,’ and I still got my little, ‘day on, not a day off hat.’ And when I leave and get back to New York, I’ll put my regular clothes on and wear my cap as I do every year on this day,” Clinton said with a sentimental heir.
In a time of political divisiveness, a presidential impeachment trial and threats of war, the 42nd President of the United States’ presence at the breakfast loomed over the room and in the words of speakers and honorees.
“Bill Clinton took a lot of hits and criticism, because he refused to change the path. He had a lane he wanted to go… There could not be a better day and time in this divisiveness for us to stand and say to him ‘thank you,’ [and] that we remember, even when we had debates, the White House is where we could always depend that we were headed in the same direction,” Sharpton said.
In an election season, the former leader of the free world also spoke on the state of the nation.
“I would like to say just a few words about where we are. Nothing that has happened these last three years, is saying some fundamental facts. We’ve been under an inter-dependent world,” he said.
President Clinton focused on the benefits of diversity bringing the nation together, particular in a divided time.
“America at its best is a country of inclusive tribalism,” Clinton said.
He also spoke about his fellow “2020 King Day Honorees.”
“All the people you’re honoring here today, including a young woman who was in the Parkland shooting- those kids did more than I ever did as President.”
Other honorees included Civil Rights leader and Freedom Rider Joan Mulholland, General President of The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Kenneth E. Rigmaiden and political organizer and commentator Karine Jean-Pierre.
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