With the recent Tucson bloodshed fresh on their hearts, and the reality of Connecticut’s economic struggles on their minds, Nutmeggers gathered at the state Capitol Monday to remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of peace and parity.

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At the 25th annual celebration, sponsored by the Connecticut Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission, Chairman Dennis James King encouraged the crowd to keep the dream alive.

“We must continue to be a catalyst for change, not just for you and me, but for generations of mankind to come,” he said. “We must make his dream. We must not forget to act.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy said that although American’s have a heavy heart because of the Arizona shooting, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would view the event with buoyancy.

On Jan. 9, six people were killed and 13 others were injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson shopping plaza. As freshman Murphy’s office was next to Giffords and he said it’s no coincidence they both call their grocery store office hours “Congress On Your Corner.” 

“Martin Luther King would look and see hopefulness at how we responded to this tragedy,” he said, noting that Giffords’ life was saved by a Mexican American, and she was later treated by a Korean American doctor.

Then, Murphy said, the country’s first black president presided over a memorial service for those killed and wounded in the shooting.

U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, quoting President Barack Obama, encouraged the audience to remember 9-year-old shooting victim, Christina Taylor Green, who had a strong interest in the U.S. government and public service.

“That is our challenge today, to be a country as good as she imagined it, as good as Martin Luther King imagined we could be,” Blumenthal said. “His dream is still a dream, it’s a work in progress.”

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said that although America has come a long way, there’s still a long road ahead.

“We haven’t come far enough,” she said. “We need all people working together. We need all people having access to health care, access to jobs, to be able to put food on the table for their families and be able to have a roof over their head.”

Wyman said it’s important to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, but said making his dream a reality is essential.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said people should examine their lives to make sure they are doing everything in their power to propel their community forward.

“This is not just about civil rights, it’s about economic rights,” he said, adding that it’s a community’s responsibility to care for one another.

Keynote speaker Dr. James Lewis III, a clinical neuropsychologist, closed the celebration by calling the crowd to action, encouraging them to incorporate “Martin Luther King moments” into their lives.

“If you consciously decide to behave like Martin … you may soon find yourself behaving like Martin, you may soon find yourself identifying with the plight of someone who doesn’t look like you, doesn’t sound like you, doesn’t smell like you, doesn’t live in your neighborhood,” he said.

By doing this, he said, one can become a “drum major for justice.”