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Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama were both celebrated Monday at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“Today is special for so many reasons,” said Kelsey Bush, youth coordinator for the St. Mary’s County Division of Community Services, who emceed the ninth annual prayer breakfast in honor of King, the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968. Bush said Obama’s second inauguration “is a true testament to the dream and manifestation of what Dr. King was working for.”

Joseph Urgo, president of St. Mary’s College, said the president’s re-election translates to: “Yes, we meant that, and we’re bringing him back to finish the job that he started.”

The keynote speaker this year was Roberto “Bert” Ifill, interim dean of students for St. Mary’s College, who said the day was an occasion for “memories, commemoration and new resolve.” This year will mark 50 years since the March on Washington, where King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Ifill noted King would have been 84 this year.

“This day of remembrance is about time,” Ifill said. King could have easily remained in a comfortable life as a member of the “black bourgeoise,” he said. “He could have remained there ... but that wasn’t his place. That wasn’t his time,” he said. In the era of enforced segregation between whites and blacks in the South, many strains of resistance began taking shape. They fully coalesced into the Civil Rights movement behind the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott in the mid-1950s, Ifill said.

Besides the obvious forces of resistance to change from segregationists, there was also disagreement within the Civil Rights movement of how quickly change should come, Ifill said.

Diversity has evolved beyond race, he said, and now includes several other areas. Distinctive contributions now make up a mosaic, rather than a melting pot, he said. “Imagine a chord — the representative of harmony. What makes a chord a chord? Different notes,” he said.

Obama, the country’s first African-American president, said during his inauguration speech Monday, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

“We can have as many breakfasts, as many months,” Bush said at the King breakfast, “but if all we do is sit and talk, then what have we done?”

“What will be your legacy?” asked Andrea Bowman, the new president of the St. Mary’s County branch of the NAACP. “Get involved and ... we can make a difference.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established by federal law in 1983, and became a federal holiday in 1986, the third Monday of January each year. King was born Jan. 15, 1929.

jbabcock@somdnews.com