Happy Birthday Martin

In Delray, MLK has remained a highly relevant figure not an historical abstraction.

In Delray, MLK has remained a highly relevant figure not an historical abstraction.

For many, MLK Day is a just another Monday.
For me, it isn’t a typical day.
I have always admired Martin Luther King. I find his writing to be astonishing.
I’ve never heard a better orator.
He was an idealist and a dreamer. And it’s the idealists and the dreamers who matter, they are the ones who move the needle in our society.
He envisioned a world where color didn’t matter, where children of all races, creeds and religions would be judged on the content of their characters not the color of their skin.
In his time, this was a brave stance. Ultimately, it cost him his life. He seemed to know that it would.
But his example, his vision, his ideals and his dream continue to inspire and resonate today.
Have we made strides in America?
For sure.
Have we achieved the dream?
Not yet.
Race is still an issue in our country and in our community.
Which is why for me and many, many others MLK remains a relevant figure, 46 years after his tragic assassination.
I can’t really speak without any insight about racial issues in Boca Raton, but I have a little bit of experience with race relations in Delray Beach.
Improving race relations  was a priority of mine throughout my seven years in office.
I believed and still do, that’s Delray’s diversity was a strength.
We are America in 16 square miles. We have all the wealth, poverty, ethnic diversity, promise, challenges and opportunities imaginable.
As such, I believed–some said naively–that we could make a difference by bringing people together.
So while we did formal initiatives and issued reports and studies, we also did the little things and the big things because we thought we could bridge the divide.
And so we began study circles and we hosted neighborhood dinners designed to bring neighbors who ordinarily might not mingle together.
We did a Downtown Master Plan that announced–for the first time–that our downtown stretched from I-95 to the beach, symbolically erasing the Swinton Avenue dividing line. We invited residents from our northwest and southwest neighborhoods to the table and listened to their dreams and aspirations and we tried to do our best to work on those dreams together.
Some people feared displacement, so we formed and funded a Community Land Trust. Other residents were concerned about education, youth  and neighborhood livability so we supported The Village Academy, adopted the Southwest Plan, relocated the library, built the first ever park in the southwest and invested millions in streets and infrastructure. We supported the Spady Museum and restored 5th Avenue. It was a team effort.
We worked together.

We laughed together.

We argued, we debated. We got frustrated by the pace of progress and we cried together when a young man named Jerrod Miller was shot and killed.
We did not get it all right. We missed some opportunities. We were tone deaf on some issues, but we made an effort. We got some things done, but we all know there is more to do.
We brought our children back home when we relocated and expanded Atlantic High School. but too many kids are still not achieving. Too many are still being lost to crime, drugs, neglect and gangs.
There is more work to do.
But we proved–at least I believe we did–that progress and dialogue are possible. That there is more in common than there are differences.
We took up MLK’s challenge.
And so–on this special day marking his birth, not his tragic death, we celebrate those efforts and renew our commitment to a dream that belongs to many.
Sure it is elusive, many good things in life are.
Our race relations consultant Sam Mathis–who passed last year–used to say that the sweetest fruit lies on the top branches of the tree. Keep climbing, he would tell me and others. And so we did.
And so we should….

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