UNION — The keynote address of Monday night’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration discussed the theme “risk takers.”
The “Speaker of the Hour” for this year’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at Sims Middle School — called “Let Freedom Ring … Everywhere” — was the Rev. Robert E. Devoe.
The event program listed some of Devoe’s accomplishments, such as being at the center of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, but the Rev. A.L. Brackett introduced Devoe from a personal perspective. Brackett called Devoe a great friend who he has known for nearly 50 years. Brackett also referred to Devoe as a trailblazer.
“People in Cleveland County (N.C.) will tell you he’s made a difference in that county, and I’ll tell you he’s made a difference in this country,” Brackett said.
Brackett said Devoe was the right choice as speaker for the MLK event, and he recalled a Progressive National Baptist Convention in 1967 in which he and Devoe both waited on Dr. King’s arrival with members of King’s family.
When Devoe took the podium, he began speaking about risk takers from various time periods, including risk takers from the Bible. He also discussed the risks taken by Dr. King. Devoe illustrated King’s perseverance with a story about when King was stabbed, yet he did not grow bitter and would not give up his mission of non-violent protest. Devoe’s speech was then directed at those in attendance Monday night.
“The world should be a better place because you lived,” he said. “We are all charged and required to make the world better. We didn’t get where we are tonight overnight — in one day. People risked everything so we could have better lives, more opportunities, and live where we want to live.”
Devoe asked those in attendance, “What are we doing to make a difference in our lives and in our communities?”
Devoe said he often worries that many people take life too lightly, becoming self-centered and focusing on things that won’t make a difference. He said there are some people who give up or “jump ship” when their decisions do not prevail. Devoe said clear-thinking people — who are not ego-driven or power-hungry — are needed to make a difference.
“Live is more than just having fun,” Devoe said, encouraging those in attendance to contribute to humanity. “It will not matter 50 years from now the money you make. It will not matter 50 years from now the type of automobile you drive. What will matter is the type of life you live and the legacy you leave behind. What you do for others will last, but what you do for yourself will be buried with you.”
Devoe asked those in attendance to think seriously about what they have to do — what God wants them to do. He said people must “do the unusual” and “get out of their comfort zones — get out of the box.”
He said he often wonders what Martin Luther King, Jr. would say if he were here today.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. died at 39, but what a difference he made!” Devoe said. “God gave him the dream, and He’s given us the opportunity to fulfill it.”
Monday evening’s event was led by Master of Ceremonies Robert Hill, who was introduced by Sally Bowser. The Rev. Ronnie McCrorey gave the invocation. Music was provided by a regional all-male choir and Ms. Breanna Bailey. A group from Foster Chapel performed a praise dance, and Jamia Hames recited a portion of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234.