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Celebration a reminder to all to stay dedicated to King's dream

People in the audience at the Lawton Public School's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Thursday were challenged by all who spoke and performed to instill  King's philosophy in their lives moving forward. 

From the music performed, to each speaker's words, to the award winners' hearts for community service, the evening's theme of "Living the Dream" in the here and now resonated throughout the entire evening celebrating MLK's legacy and life.

Reminding the audience that King not only changed this country, but changed the world, because he "chose to fight for his dream," Eisenhower High junior Abbey Phelps, added  that anyone can stand up and join the battle and work for a better future.

After the LPS Children's Choir sang an upbeat version of "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," keynote speaker Col. Joe D. Bookard, commander of the 428th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill took the podium.

"As we celebrate this national holiday, we are called by Dr. King's legacy to continue working to realize our nation's commitment to freedom," he said.  "I believe our debt to Dr. King is absorbing his philosophy and making the spirit of brotherhood part of our everyday lives." 

Talking about his own parents  his father and grandfather were sharecroppers  Bookard reminded the audience that his parents lived in a time when people  did not have the freedoms or equality that MLK dreamed of for all. 

"My mother and my father married in 1965 ... I know they wondered how they would ever overcome or how they would ever raise a family. But they did, and that is why I am here today," Bookard said. "What Dr. King believed and I'm sure my family believed was that you can overcome by holding fast to your dream, by standing firm and not retreating. ... One lesson I learned is what is delayed is not denied."

King's dream is still alive, "but it requires some work," he said, explaining that the hope is with the young because the "young are unconstrained" as they were when young people marched in 1963. 

"My parents dared to dream ... I'm convinced that the same imagination is living in this generation today," Bookard said.

Those who march today, he said, include teachers who go the extra steps to help their students succeed as if they were their own children, mothers who instill confidence in  their daughters to walk the same path only young men have traditionally walked, as well as many others who "join together in the spirit of unity."

"And then we will live up to the true meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance  one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all," he said.

Awards recognizeservice, caring hearts 

Barbara Ellis, LPS Business Services assistant superintendent, presented the four awards given annually to those who exemplify King's commitment to community and to education and that show a heart for service. 

Dr. Willie B. Smith, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist for 10 years and who has a long history of  community service in Lawton, was named this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Smith, a retired Army master sergeant with 22 years of service and also a Lawton business owner for more than 10 years, earned his doctorate in ministry from the A.L. Hardy Academy of Theology in Seattle, Wash., graduating summa cum laude. While serving as pastor in Temple, Oklahoma, he spearheaded the construction of a multi-purpose facility featuring a computer lab and after school mentoring program. He is an educator certified with the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., Program for Christian Education, and a member of the Lawton Interdenominational Minister's Alliance. He chairs the Cameron University Campus Ministries and is co-chair of the Oversight Committee of Lawton Public Schools.

The Lawton Constitution

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