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Merrimack Valley

January 22, 2013

Leaders recall King's activism, faith

LOWELL — If the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been alive today, he would be smiling with pride as Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term as the first black president of the United States, laughing at the irony that a black family was living in the White House, according to Bishop Stanley O. Choate.

King would be proud that Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, said Choate.

“He would find comfort that some of his dreams have come a reality,” said Choate, as he spoke at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast yesterday at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Inn and Conference Center.

King would have been 84 years old yesterday. The event also celebrated the 50th anniversary of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in August 1963.

But Choate, pastor of New England Pentecostal Ministries in Pelham and the Rev. Roger Sawtell did not agree with holding the inauguration on King’s holiday.

“I’m disappointed. They are two important events, but they shouldn’t be mixed,” said Sawtell, vice president of the Merrimack Valley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “The president is a political leader and we need to look at the spiritual side when we consider the legacy of King.”

Choate wondered what issues King would tackle if he were still alive — voters’ rights, immigration, the shrinking middle class, gun control or job outsourcing.

Choate he did not want to minimize the work being done, but said there also needs to be prayer.

“Dr. King was not only an activist, first and foremost he was a man of faith. It was a man of faith that started the ball rolling,” he said.

“Prayer will change things. We can’t lay all the blame on education and politics. Some of the blame must also be laid on the footsteps of our churches,” Choate said. “The church has the last say.”

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