EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Inauguration

January 18, 2009

Obama reminds Merrimack Valley residents of King

Valley residents compare president-elect to slain civil rights leader

NORTH ANDOVER — Forty-five years ago, David Grayer was among the crowd as the late Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

On Tuesday, Grayer and his family will witness another historic event in Washington when President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in as the country's first African-American president.

"I want to be there to feel the spirit, not just for myself, but for my mom and dad," said Grayer, an attorney.

Some local residents compare Obama's qualities to those of King, a minister and leader of the civil rights movement. Grayer said the most obvious similarity is their ability to communicate.

He remembers listening to King speak to a full auditorium and said you could hear a pin drop because they were in awe with what he was saying, without using notes. Grayer said Obama has the same impact.

"It's an inspiration when someone gives a speech and you start thinking of what they said," Grayer said. "When I listen to Obama speak, it makes so much sense."

Lance Bryant of Andover also sees a lot of King in Obama.

"Obama is the embodiment of Dr. King and his whole life is a result of what he did," said Bryant, music director at Andover Baptist Church.

"(His election) gives all of us a lot of hope that this country can live up to its ideals."

Just as King was perfect for his time in bringing stability to a country in chaos over civil rights, Obama is adept at communicating with the younger generation, local residents said.

"Obama is the (Martin Luther) King of today," said Vidra Harris of Methuen, who was a teenager when King was assassinated. "They are both wonderful orators who paint pictures with their words that people can see and spread into action,"

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