Two separate but ultimately linked celebrations in Johnson City Monday night honored both the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of the country’s first black president.
“I think there’s a major shift and I think having a black president is symbolic. I think how fortunate and blessed we are that it would coincide on this day,” said former Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints cornerback Carl Lee III before he addressed the audience at Carver Recreation Center’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner.
The former NFL player and West Virginia State University coach was the celebration’s guest speaker.
Across town, hundreds of people gathered at the Holiday Inn to celebrate President Barack Obama as he was sworn in for a second term.
The inauguration banquet was hosted by the Washington County Democratic Resource Center.
To be able to recognize King’s legacy on the same day as Obama’s inauguration served as a symbol of how far the country has come, according to Washington County Democratic Party Chairman Walter Buford.
“Tonight means a lot for us to be able to come together and celebrate this momentous occasion,” he said.
Buford said it’s time the nation moves past political rhetoric and party bias to move forward in taking care of the needs of the country.
“I think we’ve gotten off track with a lot of things but it’s a possibility that we can come back to the center and start working for the betterment of this nation, so we’re in hopes that this second term will give us that opportunity and give him (Obama) the opportunity to put some things in play of some plans that he already put in place,” he said.
Back at Carver, Lee said while there are issues that still divide the nation, it’s important to remember the legacy King left behind and just how important every person’s role is in keeping that dream alive.
“If we don’t, the young kids who are not taught about it enough in school, it will eventually go away. It will become something that is not relevant and I’m hoping that we can spread it and make sure that it continues to be something that remains relevant,” he said.