ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In the wake of the deadly shootings in Tucson, Ariz. earlier this month, Alaskans looked to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for guidance Sunday. Politicians and local leaders say it's important to know there are non-violent means of protest.
King’s words inspired a nation, and continue to speak generations after he's gone. The civil-rights leader, assassinated in 1968, is remembered every year -- but his message speaks even louder this year.
“We forget that richness that our diversity brings, and we forget the messages -- what this country was built on,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Dozens gathered at the Atwood Building to celebrate King, but just like he preached it wasn't about the man, it was about the message.
“When you think about it, he talked about respecting -- you may disagree with someone but you respect them, but you can protest in a non-violent way,” said Sen. Mark Begich.
Many have blamed political mudslinging and violent rhetoric for the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson that killed six people and injured 18 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- but politicians and local leaders say we should look to King as an example.
“He fought vigorously and argued with political leaders aggressively; he did it in a way where he used his words carefully,” Begich said.
“The genius -- the genius of America is that our diversity is our unity,” Murkowski said.
Young people at Sunday’s event passionately reminded people to remember the power of their words, and recognize that it’s all right to disagree.
“A man whose legacy lives today in the hearts and souls of all of us here -- we must carry this man's message of peaceful change to our communities and live our values,” said youth speaker Quentin Simeon.
“Run an extra mile, move from the ordinary to the extraordinary, starting today,” said youth speaker Kato Kakala Haunga.
Just as King used his words to change a nation, the state’s leaders used their words to inspire an audience.
“We all are role models; we have to choose our words carefully, and remember that we can do better than where we are today,” Begich said.
Most city and federal offices will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Schools will also be closed in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley, but People Mover buses will be running their usual routes.
Several celebrations will be held Monday to commemorate King’s life and legacy. Starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club, there will be food and entertainment along with resolutions presented by state officials.
Wasilla will host a celebration of King from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Valley Performing Arts Center.
Contact Jackie Bartz at email@example.com