Just as tens of thousands across the nation remembered and celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. today, more than 700 Cobb County residents packed into the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre for county's 25th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. service titled "Keeping the Dream Alive: Continuing the Journey."
Sponsored by the county and the Cobb County chapter of the NAACP, the hundreds celebrated King’s legacy through word, dance and song. Representatives from each of the county's six municipality were present, including Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin.
“He indeed is one of the greatest Americans that ever lived,” Tumlin said about King. “Today, we need to seek justice as Dr. King did and chose love over pain."
Master of Ceremonies Eric Philips of WSB-TV agreed and said: “King Day is always a big deal. I can’t lose sight of the fact of the sacrifices that Dr. King and others made.”
The morning performances and speeches reflected upon King's stance for justice, equality and human rights for all man kind. Attendees contemplated the fact that he traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times, often appearing wherever there was injustice, protest and action. He wrote five books as well as numerous articles and was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He is perhaps best known for leading the march on Washington D.C., where he delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Appropriately, songs such as "A Change is Going to Come," "Stand," "Man in the Mirror" and "Never Would Have Made It" were among those performed in the program. Speeches and poems about love, finding your fullest potential and racism were also performed. This 25th anniversary celebration made room for all ages to participate. Performers included young and older adults as well as college, high school and elementary school students.
Attorney General Sam Olens and Lee Rhyant, former general manager of Lockheed Martin, were named recepients of the "Living the Dream" Award during the ceremony as two community members who exemplify King's ideals. The audience also participated in the production by singing the black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
A persistent question throughout the program was: How do you continue the journey? Cobb County NAACP President Deane Bonner described it as getting an education to ensure a great future, getting out to vote, fighting unemployment by becoming entrepreneurs, and grooming young African-American boys to grow up to be honorable, responsible and respectable men.
“Keep kids in school to learn and to become productive citizens,” Bonner said. “Youth know that you came from queens and kings, so you must act like so.”
Others echoed Bonner's comments, describing further that continuing the dream also involves getting out into the community and doing service, building the bridge between whites and blacks and all nationalities through race relations, and just showing true genuine love to your fellow man and not acting in hate or violence.
David Howell from the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce told the audience that their presence at the event displayed a strong commitment to what Martin Luther King stood for.
“He is a man that changed the world,” he added.
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews said King's misson in life was about giving everyone the opportunity to live their dream.
“Our charge today and everyday is that we may too keep the dream alive.”