"Now is the time for each one of us to lift ourselves from the quagmire of the past and stride purposefully towards the future," he said. "Let's look forward and let freedom ring knowing that the racial code in the narrative of the 20th century has been extinguished."
In an interview, Robinson said that Martin Luther King Day has long held meaning for him.
"I think people often erroneously see the celebration of Martin Luther King Day to be a black issue but the reality of it is I think that much of the goodness that we see in society stems from those sacrifices that he made," said Robinson. "For the past 10 or 12 years, we've [Robinson and his family] used that day as a day to go to observances in Albany, but also to try and engage in some kind of community service. I use the opportunity to talk to my kids about what it is to have a dream and pursue that dream."
The observance has been held in the plaza since 1996, though the city has recognized the holiday since it was signed into law in 1983, according to state Office of General Services spokesman Brad Maione.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was last year's keynote speaker, and while Gov. David Paterson would have been a logical choice for this year's proceedings (as he is the state's first African-American governor), Paterson was in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration and was only able to address the crowd with a prerecorded message.
"Dr. Robinson brought a very heartfelt and moving address. He's a fitting choice to be keynote speaker," Maione said of Robinson. "He's a prominent African-American and someone who embodies the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King."
The observance saw many other speakers and performers, including heads of government and religion, The University at Albany Chamber Singers, The Guilderland High School Chamber Choir and the Umoja African Dance and Drumming group from Hamilton Hills Art Center in Schenectady. Price Chopper provided a commemorative birthday cake.
The program was followed by a march through Albany to the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial at Lincoln Park, where there was a wreath-laying ceremony.""