Martin Luther King’s Legacy Celebrated At Annual Scholarship Breakfast


Speeches, music and dignitaries highlighted the 17th annual Franklin Township Community Breakfast Jan. 20 at the Doubletree Hotel on Atrium Drive.

In addition to a celebration of the life of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the annual event is a fundraiser for a scholarship program for graduating Franklin High School seniors.

So far, the fundraiser has resulted in 120 scholarships totaling $120,400, said township police Sgt. Sean Hebbon, the morning’s Master of Ceremonies.

Hebbon, who recently returned to street patrol after earning the rank of sergeant, joked that some things had not changed in the years he was off the streets.

Hebbon said he was surprised to hear that people still crack doughnut jokes around police.

“Really?” he said. “Doughnut jokes?”

Hebbon returned to that theme later in the morning, as tables were being led to the breakfast buffet.

“I trust that if you happen to see me with a doughnut, you will not have that image up on Facebook,” he said.

Also featured in the day’s program was a recitation by Sean Alexander Edwards of a speech made by then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at the groundbreaking of the national King memorial. Edwards, a grammar school student in the township, is a member of New Jersey Orators.

The keynote speaker was attorney Hope Blackburn, a former assistant commissioner in the state Department of Education, and soon to be the attorney for Jersey City public schools.

Blackburn told the crowd of her background: the child of two attorneys, a student at private elementary schools, Princeton University, Villanova University law school and The Sorbonne. She said that “as a child, I was lucky enough to be oblivious to the discrimination around me.”

She asked if, in 2014, “we are satisfied.”

“In 2014, the ‘Whites Only’ signs are gone, and any American can stay in any hotel in the country,” she said. But, she said, “we are still fighting for the right to vote.”

Th New Jersey school system, she said, consistently finds itself among the top five most segregated in the nation.

“People often look at me and say, ‘you are an example of what people can do if they just try’,” Blackburn said. “My response is, based on my background, I would be ashamed of myself if I was not successful.”

She told the crowd to “leave here with a divine dissatisfaction.”

“Hold on to that divine dissatisfaction until Dr. King’s dream becomes a reality,” she said.

Politicians, school leaders and religious leaders also spoke during the program.

Rabbi Eli Garfinkel of Temple Beth El, Somerset, said that education “is of critical importance if you want to be a success in America, but it is also of critical importance if you lose your job in this economy.”

Pointing up the importance of the scholarship program, Rabbi Garfinkel said that “education may be very expensive, but it is no luxury.”

Board of Education vice president Eva Nagy told the crowd that King’s message “is a worldwide message and is something that we should practice everyday.”

“Let us keep Dr. King’s dream alive outside of these walls and outside of this breakfast for our community and for our children,” she said.

State Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, D-17, said King’s message resonated all the way to India.

King’s message, he said, “will ring for many, many centuries to come.”

“We have to put people first and serve people to the best extent possible,” he said.

Somerset County Freeholder Peter Palmer said that in his opinion, the Franklin event “is the official Somerset County Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast. While others have spring up, this is the one.”

Mayor Brian Levine said that “here in Franklin, we endeavor to live the dream.”

“Our vision for a better Franklin is collective,” he said. “Our vision is your vision.”

Board of Education president Julia Presley said King’s dream “is more than a dream, it’s a legacy.”

“His life echoes throughout time,” she said. “Let’s let our lives make a difference throughout generations to come.”


Martin Luther King Community Breakfast Jan. 20, 2014





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