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Stay focused on youth

Both of the events held Monday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had youth as their primary theme — and for good reason.

If King’s dream is ever to be fully realized in America, it will start with the young people. That’s why the committee that puts on the annual Suffolk City-Wide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration takes time out of the program to recognize young people who won an essay contest, why the East End Baptist Church Youth Explosion Choir was featured and why an award was presented to the Enlightened Minds Mentoring group, run by fairly young men and impacting the lives of even younger men.

It’s also why the S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation gives out scholarships at its annual brunch at Martin Luther King Jr. Day Benefit Brunch. The event also memorializes S. Delois Mayes, sister of founder Ebony Wright, who died in a car crash 15 years ago.

King himself used young people as a rhetorical device in one of the most well known parts of his most well known speech, the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he said. “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

But we can’t just expect young people automatically to know how to take up the cause of King’s dream. We have to teach them and model how to love our fellow humans regardless of race or any other physical characteristic, how to seek justice for those who have been disenfranchised and marginalized, and how to learn from and avoid the wickedness of the past.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew that the promise lay in the youth of our country. We hope the light continues to shine upon them, for they are the foundation of our future.