Speaking before a sold-out crowd of about 500, U.S. Rep. John Lewis said to always remember how the road was paved toward equality. Lewis gave the keynote address at the sixth annual Freedom Breakfast held Jan. 16 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel.
Themed “The Power of the Dream: Becoming an Agent for Change,” the breakfast celebrated not only the life and legacy of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but also those who have made a difference in the community. After Lewis’ speech, the 2009 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Awards were presented to Art Dunning, Ira Edwards Jr., Felton Hudson and Jenny Penney Oliver.
Lewis recounted growing up in segregation, not being able to use the library, having to sit in a separate section of the movie theater and eventually being beaten for trying to enter a white waiting room.
“My mother, my father, my grandparents told me not to get in the way, not to get in trouble, but Dr. King inspired me to get in the way, to get into trouble,” the freedom fighter and personal friend of King said. “And I got into trouble. It was necessary trouble to make our country a better place.”
Lewis recalled riots, marches and sit-ins in which he, and often King, participated.
“All across the South, the winds of change were blowing. We saw a new day coming,” he said. “Blacks and whites stood together. Many people stood up hoping and praying for a better day. And now the day is here. We should embrace it and enjoy it.
“[But] It didn’t just happen,” he added. “That’s why we have to tell this story over and over again. We must never forget how we arrived at this point where we are today.”
As for the historic Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, Lewis said “[Barack] Obama wouldn’t be president if it wasn’t for King. Somebody paved the way.”
The breakfast was held in conjunction with federal holiday of King’s birthday.
“Let us think about how we can realize the power of Dr. King’s dream as agents of change,” said Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for institutional diversity.
Dunning, vice president for public service and outreach, was honored for his work in enhancing diversity for educational and economic development. He was hailed as a bridge builder and for his ability to engage multiple generations. He also was praised for his work with the Hispanic initiative, the Black-Belt initiative and workforce development.
Edwards, sheriff of Clarke County, was honored for his work on children’s causes including the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and the Sheriff Edwards Charity Motorcycle Ride, which he founded in 2001 to raise funds for children in low-income families. He also was praised for his work in mentoring Athens youth and starting a motivational speaker series.
Hudson, who is retired from the Greene County School District, was lauded for his efforts in educating the next generation. He has served as a teacher, adviser, coach and principal.
One of his most noteworthy accomplishments was in helping law enforcement negotiate a standoff with an armed young man. Hudson talked the young man into surrendering and even stayed the night in jail with the young man to ensure his safety.
Oliver, a senior academic professional in UGA’s department of counseling and human development, was recognized for her work in promoting multicultural education and diversity at the local, state and national levels.
She has served on the President’s Minority Advisory Committee, the university’s Diversity Advisory Council, the UGA Multicultural Network and with the local anti-poverty organization, OneAthens.