SUMMIT, NJ - As Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term as president on Monday, Jan. 21, it also marked the 50-year anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
While some view this as a day off from work or school, in Summit it is a “day on” where elected officials, residents and clergy remember King. The Unitarian Church in Summit held their annual Martin Luther King Day celebration, and special guest Reverend Ronald Allen, pastor of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Summit, read King's famous speech.
Allen said while the country has come a long way since King penned those words, things still need to improve.
“Dr. King only took that moment to tell us today that we must be more than just have a dream,” he said. “We must live a dream. We must be the dream.”
After Hurricane Sandy, people were there for each other, but this needs to take place all year round, he said. Being kind towards one another should occur every day, Allen said.
As people give back on Martin Luther King Day, on Tuesday things will return to business as usual, which shouldn’t be the case, he said.
“When things go back to normal, so does everything else,” Allen said. “We need to be able to stand up day in and day out. One day a year doesn’t make what Dr. King said a dream.”
Allen said people need to treat each other better and it is important to "love thy neighbor" and it's equally important to love one’s enemies.
“Unity must be of the heart, it must be of the mind and of of the soul,” he said. “I want to be able to walk around and say 'free at last!' ”
One of Allen’s congregants, Tina Russell, said she has seen him speak numerous times and always finds him inspirational. Russell said the ceremony was extremely moving and said there needs to be less hatred in the world and more trust among people.
“It (MLK Day) means a chance to look at how far as a country we’ve come and for me as a people also to see how much we need to move forward,” Russell said.
Johan Zachrisson moved from Sweden to Summit this past summer with his family and said they love the community and wanted to learn more about American culture and history so they attended the event.
“It was touching to listen to the speech,” he said.