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Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 | Over 800 people, including politicians and plain folks, poured into the Scottish Rite Temple on Friday morning before 7:00 a.m. to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. This was the 24th year of the San Diego County Human Dignity Award Breakfast. Dee Sanford, its chair for 11 years, reminded us that “President-elect Barack Obama’s historic election confirmed our nation can move beyond the color of one’s skin to embrace the content of his character.”

The on-life support San Diego Union-Tribune did not cover this event, which featured a Youth Poetry Tribute with a stunning performance by Chelsea Foster, an a junior at High Tech High: “If I could talk to Dr. Martin, Dr. King, that is/I would not just tell him how his dream lives on/But I would show his how my world/ My life and my community are forever changed, for the better.” It’s shameful that media rush to the southeast if crimes are committed, but fail to cover the successful stories.

Keynote speaker, Fr. Henry Rodriguez, a native San Diegan raised in Southcrest, confessed to a rocky youth that saw him leave public school at 15, but he attributes his eventual success to mentors in his life. He went to night school for his diploma and volunteered 40 hours a week in a local hospital. St. Jude’s is his parish and has a remarkable school facing economic challenges. His neighborhood has faced sorrowful losses in gang related shootings, but it is also a village of hope. He asked the 800 people in the audience to go out and help youth in some capacity other than just donating money, although he endorsed that as well.

Bishop George McKinney gave the benediction after humbly accepting the Human Dignity Award. Amos Johnson, an advocate for the Jackie Robinson YMCA, read the “Living the Dream” pledge:

“On January 16, 2009, I commit myself to living the dream by loving, not hating, showing understanding, not anger, making peace, not war, and helping freedom exist for all people everywhere in the world.”

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