King’s message leads other American dreams at St. Paul rally

While some students bought books, filled fridges and relaxed before spring semester began, others fought to enliven the dream of an American hero.

For 21 years, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has reminded Americans to honor the memory of past divides and strive for unity. In St. Paul on Monday, King’s message served as a social and political platform for community members and leaders at “Education – The Lifeline of a Community.”

Over 200 people, some of which participated in a half-mile march across St. Paul earlier that morning, gathered at Concordia

University’s Gangelhoff Center to hear speakers and performers apply King’s dream to America’s modern political and social reality.

The event was organized by the Martin Luther King Holiday Commission, a voluntary body of community members, and included keynote speaker U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Mistress of Ceremonies Robyne Robinson of Fox 9 News and remarks by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other political leaders.

Although many of Ellison’s words moved audience members to cheers and standing ovations, his emphasis on the politics of unity is not a new idea.

“Nothing that I’m saying is new,” Ellison said. “I stole it all from MLK.”

Ellison challenged the community to start small by breaking down deep-seated racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual preference-based prejudices and work together.

“Politics of scarcity and fear is the problem, and we don’t have to cut anybody out,” Ellison said, questioning government spending on the Iraq War. “We’ve been through a time where we have to rediscover that we need each other.”

During the speech, family and social science senior Sarah Kramer stood in the packed gymnasium holding a sign marked with King’s words and a call for single-payer universal health care.

“We came together and everyone’s issues were in the same spot,” Kramer said, although the 300 Facebook invitations she sent out for the event solicited minimal University supporters.

“So many people don’t realize what an impact they can actually make if they just show up,” she said.

Event organizers put strong focus on education as a tool that will inform students to take a stand and create new dreams for America’s future.

The event’s education theme was intended to parlay King’s ideologies and philosophies into more tangible policies and forms of activism. And many believe education can spur such activism.

“Maybe it’s because they have less to lose or maybe it’s because they haven’t had their dreams dimmed yet,” Ellison said of the students who are dedicated to King’s famous dream of a unified nation.

Rekhet Si-Asar, a community member and mother, said realizing King’s dream is not just an annual celebration but rather an everyday challenge to reflect and act on.

“Gaps haven’t been closed,” she said. “There are still wounds and things that haven’t been solved or resolved.”