WATERVILLE, Maine — Martin Luther King Jr. was an ordinary man. What set him apart, though, was his choice to take action and fight for civil rights — and not just talk about it.
That was the message Monday from a Colby College dean who discussed King’s life and legacy at Waterville’s 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Breakfast. Tashia Bradley, Colby’s associate dean of students, delivered the keynote address at the gathering, which more than 150 people attended.
“What he had was no more godlike than any of us in this room,” Bradley said. “He could have made a conscious choice to confront it or not. He was an ordinary man who accepted an extraordinary call.”
Bradley arrived at Colby in 2011 after overseeing multicultural affairs programs at colleges in Kentucky, Florida, Illinois and Kansas. At Colby, Bradley is director of the college’s Pugh Center, which sponsors multicultural programming.
If he were alive today, Bradley asked, how would King react to the fact that racial disparities persist, that black children are more likely than their white counterparts to grow up in poverty, less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to be incarcerated when they grow up?
“It isn’t enough to say that poverty is bad, that not all children are successful, or there is disparity in incarceration rates,” Bradley said. “We have a moral obligation to make our country and our world better.”
The lesson to learn from King, she said, is that actions — more than words — are needed.
“I believe his actions would speak louder than any words,” Bradley said.
The community breakfast in Waterville was among a handful of events held across the state Monday to honor King.
Gov. Paul LePage, a former Waterville mayor who traditionally has attended the breakfast in his hometown, did not attend Monday though he issued a statement over the weekend honoring King and proclaiming Monday as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. In addition, LePage wasn’t invited to this year’s breakfast celebration in Portland hosted by the NAACP after he declined invitations for the past two years and attended the Waterville breakfast instead.
In the Bangor area, organizers of an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast held at the University of Maine called off their event this year after NAACP members in the area had other commitments and ran out of time to organize the event.