This morning I watched the 23rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, sponsored by the Skanner Foundation. I’ve decided to post my thoughts and feelings on what was said here...
Understandably there was a lot of excitement in the room about inaugural events this week in Washington, but the overall tone of the program had more to do with Barack Obama than Martin Luther King, which I found somewhat disturbing. The usual dignitaries were all in attendance. Faces in the crowd included Jim Fancesconi, Kate Brown, and Ted Wheeler.
The program was emceed by Felicia Williams for the Seattle Skanner. She struggled a bit with getting the attendees to cease with their “networking” when the program began. Margaret Carter came to her rescue as she took over the microphone. She thanked her constituents from Senate District 22 for 25 years of her service, which I found odd. I live in that district, and have contacted Senator Carter many times over the years. She’s never responded to me. She then referred to the “thugs on Wall Street” which seemed to me to be a personal attack. Of course she’s a Senator, so she gets to do that sort of thing. She did say to her fellow legislators; “Do not craft this budget off the backs of Oregon’s most vulnerable”, which I liked hearing.
Next they sang the National Black Anthem, “Lift Every Voice”. Here are the lyrics...
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.
Following the song, Pastor Lamont Williams gave a blessing where he proclaimed “Change would indeed come throughout our country” behind Barack’s leadership. I hope he’s right.
Jerry Foster of the Skanner was up next, introducing a video message from Senator Ron Wyden. I have to admit my eyebrows raised when he stated that “The inauguration is a culmination of Martin Luther King’s work”. The 2 definitions I found for “culmination” are a. To reach the highest point or degree; climax and b. To come to completion; end. In my opinion the inauguration of President Obama is neither. He also said we should “overcome the hatred and fear of the past” which I agree with. He wants to “put the middle class first” which I don’t like, as the middle class has been defined as those making less than $200,000. That’s MUCH too high for my blood.
Ted Kulongoski spoke of “a great week we’re going to have”, and “a week of volunteerism”. What about the other 51 weeks? He then proceeded to prop up the Skanner with a Proclamation. Not very exciting. In kind, Jerry Foster of the Skanner gave the state a photo of Obama for the Gov.’s office.
Portland City Commisioner Nick Fish introduced the Keynote Speaker, Oregon Attorney General, John Kroger. He said “Corrupt Public Officials in our community should watch out” in regard to Mr. Kroger’s reputation as a prosecutor. I can only hope he’s right.
John Kroger seems to be quite cool. After the obligatory comments about Obama, he went into talking about how Martin Luther King would not be “content, but would be very angry" over the state of things. (Fresh air!) He spoke of poverty being 32% for black folks compared to 12% for whites. He talked about crime being disproportionate with 2% of Oregonians being black but 10% of the prison population. He said he cried when he visited the Depaul Youth Treatment Center, realizing that 90% of the girls there had been sexually abused and 70% of the boys. He spoke of how “the war on drugs has failed”,and how “racism is pervasive in our country”, to which a female in the audience was heard shouting “amen”! Finally he wants to bring back the Civil Rights Investigatory Unit at the Oregon Department of Justice, which we need here more than ever.