‘Those on outskirts of hope’ recalled on MLK day

  • Breanne Daehne, 11, of Greenfield, reads her essay on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College January 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura speaks on Martin Luther King Day at ceremonies at Greenfield Community College. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Phoebe Wondolowski, 10, of Greenfield, reads her essay on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College January 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura speaks on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College January 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Alice Perry Knapp Wondolowski of Greenfield, reads her essay on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College January 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • A choir sings on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College January 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Families make clay ornaments on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College on Monday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Theo Martini, 5, of Greenfield, decorates cookies on Martin Luther King Day at MLK ceremonies at Greenfield Community College January 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Children are shown a display about Martin Luther King Jr. at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield on Monday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/16/2017 11:17:33 PM

GREENFIELD — Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, once said, “Too many Americans live on the outskirts of hope.”

And it was those Americans that Greenfield Community College President Robert L. Pura addressed in his speech at the college’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration 53 years later.

“Today, as we gather here to celebrate one of our nation’s most important leaders, there are millions of Americans who live on the outskirts of our economy and the outskirts of our government,” he said.

He cited Nebraskan farmers who unfairly compete against corporate farms, small Ohio towns that have been split by a growing economic gap between the rich and poor; Michigan, where the drinking water (in Flint) is toxic and “where the good people who make the cars we drive are replaced by machines” and where the companies are “run by CEOs who make 500 percent more money” than the workers. Pura spoke of Maine, where “children leave to chase the jobs.”

He also spoke of Greenfield, “where all too many of our hard-working neighbors have to work twice as hard to make ends meet because of the economy of scale, and where 70 percent of children in their public schools are eligible for free lunch.” Pura said about 70 percent of GCC graduates also receive government aid to pay for school.

“There has been a divestment in public education since 1980 that has caused the current state of fear and anger,” he said. “It has weakened our democracy in the process.”

Saying that public education is “the balancing wheel” for social and economic justice, Pura said it is only when access to quality education is available to all will there be good jobs, good wages and a quality of life for all. “It is then and only then will we be able to realize MLK’s dream,” he said.

Three essay contest winners, sixth-graders Breanne Daehne, Phoebe Wondoloski and second-grader Alice Perry Knapp Wondolowski also read their remarks to at least 100 people who attended the day’s events.

Alice, 7, said King’s dream was that some day we can all be equal. “People who had black skin were treated different and their kids went to crummy schools,” she wrote. “He and some other people said this needs to STOP.”

Phoebe, 10, wrote: “We still haven’t reached equality, but we never would have come this far without people like him. Another reason we must remember him is because of the risks he took for his beliefs. At that time, it was dangerous to express beliefs that said whites should not have superior rights to others. Because of his beliefs, his house was bombed. He still kept speaking out. In the end, he was shot. But he was brave, and he changed this country.”

In her essay, Breanne wrote that King “believed you needed to meet hate with love,” and although he was killed, “King’s dream had not died with him.”

“Like many people, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted everyone, no matter their color, to be equal and to hold the same Civil Rights,” Daehne wrote. “While (King) is no longer with us, his dream is always within our hearts.”

As bright sunlight and warmth streamed through the windows of Greenfield Community College, children spent the morning of their Martin Luther King Jr. Day remembrance dancing, drumming, decorating cookies, coloring pictures of Civil Rights leaders, or making wooden toys at a Home Depot workshop.

But along with the merriment, parents walked their small children through a display of giant photos of King, the marches he led, and milestone moments for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The parents were quietly explaining the photos and the stories behind them.




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