The State of Iowa’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Junior was held at the Iowa State Historical Building today. Taj Brown of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington was the keynote speaker. Brown says it’s time to stop waiting for someone else to take up King’s legacy.He says, “Doctor King was a gift from the bossum of God. His life is an example to all of us young and old. But listen to this, Dr. King is dead. And unfortunately some of us are quietly waiting for the next Dr. King to come along and tell us what to do. Tell us how to act, tell us where to go and what to say.” Brown says we don’t need another Dr. King, we need everyday ordinary people who’re willing to act. Brown told the audience it’s up to them to determine whether they keep King’s dream alive, or whether they put it to rest until next January. He says it’s time to “reframe the public debate” on the issues that King fought for. Brown says everyone must be willing to struggle as a means to seek liberation of the poor, to engage the disengaged, and empower the disenfranchised. Brown says we must reaffirm our pursuit of freedom and justice, not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it’s about right and wrong. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack spoke today at the state ceremony honoring Martin Luther King Junior. Vilsack says there are some things about Iowa King would like. He says he thinks King would be pleased with our emphasis on education, recognizing there’s still an “unacceptable” education gap for people of color, for children who come from families that’re “financially challenged.” Vilsack says the state has begun addressing that by challenging communities like Waterloo and Sioux City to develop strategies that can be used in other communities. Vilsack also used the speech to push one of his education projects. He says he thinks Dr. King would be pleased that the state is focusing on early childhood education. He says the state is providing opportunities for parents to be their child’s first and best teacher. He says, “Opportunities that if adequately financed and supported by our legislature will allow us to do a better job of supporting families and helping families.” Vilsack says there are also some things that King would say need work. Vilsack says, “Poverty rates among people of color are unacceptably high.” He mentioned the achievement gap again, and says the incarceration rate of African American males in our state’s prisons is one of the largest percentages, and “is unacceptable and must be addressed.” Vilsack says the state has made great progress, but must continue working on these issues.
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