C. Stuart photo
A number of elected officials attended the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the state Capitol Monday, among them was Gov. M. Jodi Rell, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Congressman John Larson. Each had an opportunity to speak and each addressed King’s life and message differently.
For example, Larson mentioned King’s April 4, 1967 speech about Vietnam to argue that if King were alive today he would want two things: to end the war in Iraq and bring aid to Darfur. Lieberman, who sat next to Larson, avoided the topic of war and instead talked about how many children still attend schools that are separate and unequal. He said “you’re not going to be able to enjoy the rights you’re given, unless you have an education.” He said the No Child Left Behind Act has received its fair share of criticism, but its five years is about to he up and he plans to its goal was a worthy goal. “Let’s mend it, not end it,” Lieberman said. Lieberman did not address the genocide in Darfur or the war in Iraq in his comments. Following the celebration he said he is “not altering his position on the war.” “I strongly support the President’s new strategy for success and hope he will resist a cut-off of funds,” by Congress, Lieberman said. He said if Congress overrides a presidential veto, then he expects that Bush would comply. As for Darfur Lieberman has said in the past that he supports any effort to end the genocide there. Rell talked about two moments in King’s life she remembered from a speech she gave six-years ago and read a proclamation. State Comptroller Nancy Wyman talked about the upcoming debate on universal health care in the state with King’s observation that “of all forms of inequity, injustice in health is the most shocking and most inhumane.” Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz talked about dedicating the state blue book to three influential black women who died in 2006, including Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and Justice Constance Baker Motley. And Attorney General Richard Blumenthal talked about “the injustice of our justice system,” and advocated for Justice Vanessa Bryant, who is African-American, to be elevated to the federal bench. After all six had spoken keynote speaker Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson from a church in Mt. Vernon, New York said we should avoid the temptation to editorialize the words of Dr. King. “We did not agree with everything he said,” but King drove “us as a nation into introspection,” Richardson said. “We have come so far, but the dream is still so far away.” He said racism still takes its toll on America and we should not be fooled into thinking things have changed when “so much has remained the same.” “Racism is much more sophisticated. It is not sick, it does not have a cold, it’s not in the emergency room. It’s alive and well,” in our political, financial, and educational institutions, he said. He said all three of these institutions co-conspire to conceal racism. He said you don’t have to be a mathmetician to know there’s a disproportionate number of black people in prison.“Those who have money get justice,” Richardson said. He said how is it that black people have the smallest amount of money, but are the biggest consumers. He said why do we have to buy a suit or dress with someone else’s name on it to help massage our self-image. He said we need to start spending more money on Wall Street, not Madison Ave. He said in the face of injustice and inequality the black church has fallen strangely silent on social justice issues. “If the Bible calls us into account, then we ought to speak out on justice and equality.” And “education is still the greatest weapon against racism,” he said acknowledging some of Lieberman’s sentiment. Bishop William M. Philpot of New Haven, who received a humanitarian award Monday, said he was moved by Richardson’s sermon. “I believe we will never be the same having been here today,” Philpot said. “I’m moved to go further and do more.”