SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many of the Salt Lake Valley’s most prominent leaders gathered in the ballroom of the Little America Hotel to honor the significance of the occasion.
While a major portion of the luncheon, hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was the honoring of two local figures as recipients of awards named after King and Rosa Parks, the event as a whole could be summarized as a celebration of the state’s diversity and a salute to civil servitude.
There were dancing performances by youth members of the African and Polynesian communities, a stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by a young vocalist, and tokens of gratitude given to members of the law enforcement community.
ABC4’s Good Things Utah host Surae Chinn served as the Mistress of Ceremonies as longtime Japanese-American political leader Floyd Mori and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson were honored as recipients of the King and Parks Awards, respectively.
Mori, who was born in Murray and went on to a lofty political career in California and Washington, D.C. expressed his gratitude to the NAACP for the distinction, and cited the late Dr. King in his speech, defining a term that has become increasingly divided as to its definition and meaning.
“Today, there’s a lot of rhetoric about the word freedom. Freedom is very important to each one of us. Freedom requires the ability to choose. The cry of freedom is extended today,” Mori observed. “However, I hear too much of the words ‘my, I, and me.’ Freedom should be what Martin Luther King taught, what are we doing for others? Our freedom will survive and our democracy will become stronger as you and I seek to learn that principle.”
Following Mori’s plea for a better understanding of King’s teachings, NAACP Salt Lake Branch President Jeanetta Williams presented the Rosa Parks Award to Wilson, expressing her appreciation for the Mayor’s efforts to extend civil rights in Utah’s most populous county.
“Jenny Wilson has dedicated her time to service,” Williams declared. “Her commitment has brought about great changes in our community, and she seems to do what is best for the people that she serves.”
Upon accepting the award, Wilson stated she felt choked up and humbled by the honor. She added that she sometimes feels her efforts aren’t as profound as she wishes but gave her appreciation for attendees at the event who continue to do their best to promote King’s and Parks’ values.
“As an elected official, I am in the position to affect change and frankly, sometimes it’s not as deep as I would like,” Wilson admitted. “But still, it’s critical to recognize that the true direction that I’m given is by those who stand up and reverse step day in and day out for every family that’s struggling to get by. I see you here today, and I know each of you is working in your own way to bring about change in our community, and justice for all.”
As the luncheon concluded, “Glory,” the song penned by performing artists John Legend and Common, the theme to the 2014 film “Selma”, played in the background and drove the spirit of the event home, as attendees, of all races, continued to linger for greetings, handshakes, and photographs.
Williams will be in studio, discussing the significance of the day on ABC4’s evening newscasts on Monday.