MERIDEN — Local and federal officials spoke about the importance of remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s message during the 35th annual Martin Luther King, Jr./Albert Owens scholarship breakfast Monday.
“It feels great to be 93 years old and still be here,” said Rhudean Raye, president and founder of the event.
Raye said the breakfast continues to grow and that she wants to leave behind a self-sustaining event.
Pauline Davis, who grew up in Meriden, said the event holds a special meaning for her.
“(Martin Luther King, Jr.) was a pivotal part in my life,” Davis said. “...How he changed the course for people of color in the United States can never be forgotten. I was a senior in high school when he was assassinated and a part of me died, but it also gave me strength.”
Speakers included U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Mayor Kevin Scarpati and keynote speaker Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. The event at Maloney High School also featured the Maloney Allegrettos, Rev. Lemonica Johnson and Miguel and Celine Cardona.
Hayes spoke about the impact of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. While teaching in Waterbury, she would hear students talk about all the things wrong in the world. She would tell them to do one thing to help solve a problem. Hayes said many times people wait for someone else to make the first step, but everyone should start by taking steps to make a positive difference.
The breakfast also honored local students who won the event’s essay contest and scholarship awards. Stacy Alberto, who attends Lincoln Middle school, was one of the essay winners.
“It feels really exciting,” Alberto said. “I’m really proud of what Martin Luther King did and fought for.”
Lydia Jacob, a Maloney student, was also one of the essay contest winners. She was happy to be able to honor Dr. King, and said “what he did was really good for the country.”
Kiwanis members Cindy D’Agostino, immediate past president, and Joan Kilby, president, said the breakfast is a great way to honor the day each year.