A keynote speaker on Saturday issued a challenge to local leaders in the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“From these hallowed grounds, Dr. Martin Luther King studied, rested, strategized and he penned many of his most famous speeches from a room just beyond this hall,” Chatham County Superior Court Judge John E. Morse Jr. said.
“And he began the writing of a speech that he gave in Atlanta, Ga., Aug. 17, 1967, that began to shape a lot of his themes and sermons for the remaining portion of his life. And he used the basic Socratic Method by asking a question. And the question was: ‘Where do we go from here?’”
Morse, who also serves as pastor of Pleasant Grove AME Church in Hinesville, was the keynote speaker at the annual MLK Observance Association Leadership and Grand Marshal Breakfast. About 150 attended the three-and-a-half hour breakfast at the Dorchester Academy.
His speech warned leaders that complacency can lead in only two directions: regression to past injustice or stagnancy in the current state.
“That brings me to No. 3, and, that is, we can move on to the promised land,” Morse said, building on a biblical analogy.
“Where do we go from here? Only you can answer that question. Ask yourself every day when you wake up,” Morse challenged. “Look in the mirror, ask yourself ‘Where do we go from here?’ And if you strive on a daily basis to answer the question, the dream will never die.”
Before he took the podium, the speaker’s wife, Debbie Morse, testified about her husband’s dedication to his dreams from his childhood in Savannah’s Yamacraw Village. Dedication saw him through attending Savannah Country Day School as the only black student, through Georgia State University, Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University and into his tenure as Chatham County’s first black superior court judge.
“God set him up at Savannah Country Day to be used to being the only one amongst many, and to feel uncomfortable,” Debbie Morse said. “But how many of you know that sometimes you have to be uncomfortable for the better end?”
Hinesville singer McKinley Sartin roused the crowd with several musical selections, including the spiritual “We’ve Come a Long Way.”
The Baconton Missionary Baptist Church Exquisite Voices performed an interpretation of the James Weldon Johnson poem selection from “God’s Trombones.”
Pastor Glenda F. Layton gave an inspirational greeting, drawing on a 1967 King speech to Pennsylvania junior high students entitled “What is your life blue print?”
“His speech gave a lesson that we should be the best at what we do, regardless of what our job is, regardless of our situation and regardless of our circumstance …,” Layton said. “’Don’t just do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead and the unborn couldn’t do it any better.’”
Toward the end of the ceremony, last year’s parade Grand Marshal John McIver passed the baton to his brother, Deacon Willie McIver. Their mother, Hagar McIver, held the post long ago, they said.
“I’m deeply grateful and honored to be chosen by the MLK observance association committee to serve…,” Willie McIver said. “I’ll do my very best to represent the MLK observance committee. As he said, three in one family, that’s unbelievable.”
Several elected officials and representatives from the Liberty County NAACP offered remarks, building up to the keynote address.
The breakfast was sponsored by Evangelist Edna Scott Walthour and coordinated by Yvonne Woods, Gale Dent, Debra Frazier and Deacon Joseph Wynn.
Renee Strodder catered the event. Delores Frasier coordinated the ushers and Shanon McFadden designed the program.
As the program closed, attendees joined hands in singing “We Shall Overcome.”