HAVERHILL — It was a day at the start of an era many thought would never come.
"Let us pray for this day and a time we thought we'd never see," the Rev. Gregory Thomas, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, said at the start of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast yesterday.
The breakfast took on additional significance this year, held a day before the country's first black president, Barack Obama, was sworn into office.
"Buckle your seat belts and get ready for a journey of a lifetime," said Carole Copeland Thomas, the keynote speaker.
"Great journeys take great people and there is greatness in this room," she said.
Nearly 200 gathered at DiBurro's in Ward Hill to remember the achievements of King, to celebrate the civil rights movement that transformed America, and to recognize the historic nature of the recent election.
The Merrimack Valley branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People holds this annual breakfast to honor King, remember his challenge to treat each other with respect and dignity, and to build a more diverse society.
In his invocation, Thomas said King's beliefs stemmed from his deep faith in God.
"We thank you for the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., all he did, those who caught his dream, and the belief that with God, we can do anything," Thomas said.
The Rev. Roger Sawtelle, president of the NAACP's Merrimack Valley branch, talked about the election of Obama as justification for the civil rights movement in America.
"He is the right man for the right job at the right time," Sawtelle said. "In my opinion, the country has a much brighter future today than it ever has."
Copeland Thomas, an author, radio talk show host and leadership consultant, noted this year marks the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, as well as the 62nd anniversary of the Merrimack Valley branch.