Campus News

Freedom Breakfast speakers, award recipients help community grow

The 2023 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award recipients include, from left, Jaquarius Raglin, Laura Whitaker and Jason Edwards. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Annual event honors legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeds of service were planted during the 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast—“The Power of the Dream: Growing Together.”

“This special event reinforces our commitment to honoring the legacy of Dr. King and those who continue working to make his dream a reality,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remains one of the world’s most influential leaders and a champion for justice and equality whose legacy continues to inspire all of us.”

Arthur Tripp, state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Georgia, gave the keynote address and spoke about the importance of growth.

“You see, growth can’t happen until we take time to assess where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going together,” he said.

Arthur Tripp, state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Georgia, gave the keynote address at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Breakfast on Jan. 13. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Tripp reiterated that it’s important to reflect on groundbreakers such as Hamilton Holmes, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Mary Frances Early and others because today’s challenges require the same determination, grit and persistence.

“Their decision to keep walking forward is why someone who looks like me can stand before you today,” he said.

Tripp asked audience members to consider what they already have in their hands. What seeds could they plant that will eventually grow to help others?

“It’s important that we realize that the actions of today are deeply contingent upon our actions looking forward down the road,” he said.

Tripp endorsed thinking of the holiday as a “day on” rather than a “day off,” encouraging people to double their volunteer and giving efforts as they can.

“The challenges of what was are not too far from the challenges that we face today. While we’ve come a long way, there is still a lot of work to be done to fulfill Dr. King’s dream,” he said. “His dream still rings true for us today, for we stand together at the precipice of possibility. We have the awesome privilege to learn from what was, to build on what is, so that our children and future generations can live in what will be.”

The Freedom Breakfast, held annually since 2007, honors the legacy of the late civil rights leader and recognizes students, faculty, staff and local community members dedicated to contributing to race relations, justice and human rights with the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Jaquarius Raglin, graduate student earning a Masters in the Study of Law from UGA’s School of Law
  • Jason Edwards, associate director of alumni relations in the Mary Frances Early College of Education
  • Laura Whitaker, CEO of Extra Special People, Inc.

“Our award recipients have demonstrated a commitment to the Athens-Clarke County community, the Clarke County School District and the University of Georgia through their civic engagement by utilizing Dr. King’s philosophy to resolve conflict and foster goodwill,” said Alton Standifer, deputy chief of staff to the president.

As part of the event, Serenity Starr, an intended elementary education major, and Zion Brannon, a pharmaceutical sciences major, performed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “Lean on Me.”

Additionally, students from the Clarke County School District shared some of their writing and artwork celebrating King’s legacy around the theme, “King’s Kindness in Action.”

“Today we celebrate not only the incredible work that is being done, but also the breadth and diversity of work from our schools to our community organizations to our campus engagement to farms and agricultural communities across the state. Our award winners and speaker this morning are shining examples of the progress we can make when we are willing to do so,” said Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives.