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Value of service focal point of MLK breakfast

The sounds of freedom resounded throughout Dunbar Recreation Center Monday during the Butler County Civic League’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast event.

The standing-room-only occasion saw a number of dignitaries from throughout Butler County and beyond.  Mayors Dexter McLendon of Greenville, Jerome Antone of Georgiana and Lester Odom of McKenzie each offered greetings, alongside Butler County Commission chairman Allin Whittle and Butler County Superintendent John Strycker.

Alabama House Rep. Chris Sells also offered greetings, opting to cite one of King’s most memorable quotes in his opening delivery.

“If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” Sells said.

“How much effort do you put into your religion, family, job–and for the kids–school?  Don’t lose the game because you did not put enough effort forward.”

Alabama Sen. Hank Sanders noted that Monday morning’s breakfast was the first of many similar events on his agenda, but he added that Butler County’s youth participation left an impression each year.

“This is a program where I see plenty of young people, and that’s just so important,” Sanders said.

“In 1965, I remember standing on Dexter Avenue and hearing the ‘How Long, Not Long’ speech. I left there thinking that it would be not long.  I have learned 50 years later that it is long.

“We have to be committed to Dr. King’s dream. But that means we have to work.”

Following a pair of selections from the Big Pine Level Church Devotional Team and the breakfast itself, keynote speaker and Georgiana Police Department chief Carlton Cook took the podium.

Cook expressed gratitude for the opportunity to thank one of the greatest servants in the history of mankind, “a person who believed that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Cook’s call to action for the crowd before him was simple. Live a life of service, just as King did. 

“His legacy left us a sincere challenge to live a life of service to our community and the world,” Cook said. “Yes, Dr. King would expect each of us to actively engage and be of service to our communities. 

“When you begin to carefully reflect on your own role as a citizen, perhaps you may borrow and support Dr. King’s legacy by actively voting, registering to vote, attending county and town meetings and participating in other civic causes that affect you.”

Cook also stressed, however, that simply being a servant alone isn’t enough to affect change.

It would also require a great deal of self-reflection and, more importantly, selflessness.

“Our service of teaching, preaching, loving and caring for each other is the best way to move our world forward,” Cook said.

“Too many times people say they want to be great, but they focus more on improving and elevating themselves rather than lifting others up with them. I must advice you that putting oneself before service is not the best way.

“Like Dr. King, we must strive to leave a legacy of service. We must find ways to teach others how to serve and create opportunities for them to serve. So I leave you with this challenge.  Make every day of your life a day of service. Find someone to do something nice for, even when no one else is looking.”