Approximately 2,000 people gathered in Albany on Monday, Jan. 19, to celebrate what would have been about the 80th birthday of the revered civil rights movement figure Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though the observance, held in the Empire Plaza Conference Center, is an annual affair, this year's proceedings had a special significance for many who gathered there on the eve of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
The day's speakers often touched on the ongoing historic events, and a video montage of Obama's ascent to the White House elicited rapturous applause from the audience. But big cheers were saved for the event's keynote speaker, Dr. L. Oliver Robinson, superintendent of the Shenendehowa Central School District, who spoke passionately and eloquently about the status of King's goals and dreams for America in a speech entitled Deferral Does Not Mean Denial.
Robinson's words reminded the audience that while the world has changed for the better in the past 50 years, obstacles remain for people of all colors and creeds.
"Today I ask you a question. What happens to a dream deferred?" he said, pointing to the poverty, inequality and societal neglect in this country. "Those inhibitors of dreams and hopes still ring true today."
With oratorical flourish, Robinson made particular mention of the way our nation teaches its children " or how it fails to do so " rallying against a system that examines fourth-grade test scores in deciding how many prisons to build.
"So much for No Child Left Behind," said Robinson, to applause. "Education is the means with which we lift the veil of ignorance. Education is transcendent and transformative, and for those of you who don't believe it, look at me, because I am a testament."
Robinson's message was not one of pessimism, but rather of hope for a better tomorrow.