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The Remarks of Speaker Carl E. Heastie Honoring the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


[as prepared]

In just a moment we will continue our longstanding Assembly tradition honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a legislative resolution.

The adoption of this resolution is more than a ceremonial acknowledgement of Dr. King and the indelible mark he has left on American history and the world. It is a reminder to us all that the fight for equal rights and justice for all people is not a sprint, but a marathon.

I know it will always bear a personal significance for me because on the same day that we adopted this resolution in 2015, I was sworn in as the first person of color to lead this body.

Even as I stand here, I know there are many for whom this historic achievement won't mean as much without the kind of progress that will impact lives for the better.

In 1963, Dr. King warned that there would be no rest or tranquility in our nation until equality and justice was realized for all people.

The ordinary men and women who were inspired by his words marched on Selma and Washington D.C. in hopes that their children and grandchildren would not inherit their struggles.

Dr. King once compared racial injustice and systemic discrimination to "quicksand." Today, we can say the same of our broken criminal justice system and the revolving door of poverty that claims so many lives before they ever have the chance to reach their true potential.

That the very stage where Dr. King delivered his stirring call for an end to intolerance, bigotry and discrimination now serves as the backdrop for one of the most divisive and intolerant administrations of our time should concern us all.

There is too much at stake for silence and the future deserves better than our indifference.

I have said before that the race does not end with our successful election to public office. We have merely picked up the baton that was carried by our forefathers and it is our responsibility to carry it for the next generation.

Now it is our turn to reject xenophobia and loudly denounce the resurgence of racism in our society in all its forms. We have come too far for this to become normal once again.

I support this resolution in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the people, both native and foreign-born, who were denied equality and on whose sacrifice the dream of this great nation was made possible.