January 22, 2013

Community gathers to celebrate MLK

PLATTSBURGH — Landon Gosselin hopes to become a teacher — and would promote equality in the classroom. 

The Northeastern Clinton Central School alum shared that dream at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration here on Monday.

Temperatures hovered in the teens, the president was inaugurated, and many stayed home to enjoy the end of their three-day weekend, but roughly 100 people crowded the pews of the Blessed John XXIII College Community Newman Center to celebrate the holiday.

They joined together in soulful singing, recited part of King’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech and listened to Peru High School Assistant Principal Sanford Coakley give his account of integrating into an all-white school in rural Virginia when he was in fourth grade.


Coakley said before the ceremony that he hoped his speech would help younger generations understand how far the nation has come in terms of equality.

For some in attendance Monday, his talk did that, while also showing what is left to be done.

“We forget about our youth,” said J.W. Wiley, director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh and a commemoration attendee. 

“It’s important to let our youth know what part they can play.”


A handful of elementary and high-school-age youth were there, including Gosselin and Seton Catholic Central School graduate Eva Zalis, who received scholarships from the commission. 

They read the scholarship essays they’d written, both of which touched on how they promote equality and would continue to do so.

“I think that everyone experiences or witnesses discrimination at some point,” Zalis said of the inspiration for her essay.

Wiley visits schools to speak about equality and teaches diversity classes at SUNY Plattsburgh. He said Coakley’s story is one he knows but not one his children, who were in attendance, necessarily do.

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