“We need to tell these stories so we can learn how far we’ve come,” he said. “But we need to recognize that we need to find ways to tell these stories to more people.”
Coakley wasn’t the only one to speak about how King’s work made positive change in their lives.
“(King) and other leaders truly shaped the man I became,” Plattsburgh City Councilor Jim Calnon said from the lectern. … The lessons Dr. King spoke to us in those days are what I believe.”
Commemoration moderator Stanley Ransom also highlighted the civil-rights leader’s work in his opening
remarks, calling for those in the crowd to think of others.
The ceremony, sponsored annually by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, was interspersed with music from the Martin Luther King Singers, who sang a pair of songs with the crowd, including civil-rights-movement anthem “We Shall Overcome.”
The predominately white, middle-aged crowd swayed, clapped and held hands as they joined in the melody, filling the church with song.
Soloists also sang soulful renditions of gospel classics as SUNY Plattsburgh professor Dexter Criss accompanied the tunes on piano.
Before the event began, Commission Chair Maxine Perry noted that the program was being changed because some people were sick or, in the case of government representatives State Sen. Betty Little, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and Congressman Bill Owens, had other commitments.
Attendance was lower than normal, she said afterward, but that was to be expected with the flu outbreak and presidential inauguration.
For Coakley, taking part in such a celebration for the first time, lower attendance didn’t detract.
“It was a great program,” he said.