WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -About 250 people listened Monday morning to stories of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and how his ideals can impact the future.
Local political, religious and civic leaders were among the attendees at the 19th annual Thomas H. Slater Center Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast at the Crown Plaza. They heard speeches, watched youth performers and held hands as they sang "We Shall Overcome."
"Today is an important day to reconnect ourselves to the spirit and action of Martin Luther King," U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey said. "We fight for all and someday everyone will have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams."
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach spoke about how local residents are pursuing King's ideals.
"People at the YMCA were painting, volunteers were sorting clothing and the Youth Bureau volunteers were working to help make this a better world," he said.
The keynote speaker was Mount Vernon Council member Richard Thomas, the youngest to ever hold the position. He spoke of his father, who owned a construction company but was turned down for a job for being black.
"The government is bouncing checks on companies of color," he said, before urging the crowd "to have the guts to face challenges and retake the pledge to march ahead."
After breakfast was served Asjea Bowery, a White Plains high school student, performed a praise dance and Keith Brunson, a local college student, recited a hip hop poem.
Among the guests at the breakfast was Norman White, pastor of the Trinity Lutheran Church in White Plains, who said he marched with King in Washington in 1963.
"I spoke about that incident at my sermon yesterday and about how Dr. King changed my life," he said. "Then some kids spoke about what they know about Dr. King. He's a very important presence to us."
Bill Alexander, a Teamsters auditor who's working on the reelection campaign for President Barack Obama, said he believes King would be disappointed in today's political apathy.
"I'm appreciative of Dr. King's effort to get us involved in the political process, but he wouldn't be as joyful in our lack of participation," he said. "We're not voting enough in local and school elections and participating in the budgeting process. We need more."