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  • Writer's pictureOffice of Rep. Vargas

Remarks from MLK Breakfast With Cavalry Baptist and UU Churches of Haverhill

Remarks as prepared

Good morning! It’s a pleasure to be here with you all at a breakfast that so many of us look forward to every year. Thank you to Cavalry Baptist and the UU Church for consistently bringing us together to celebrate and reflect on the life of a man whose actions and words inspired a nation to look in the mirror and sometimes painstakingly change for the better.

Every year, this weekend, this holiday, comes with events that offer us the opportunity to be motivated and recharged– our cups are refilled, reenergized to carry the struggles that we fight for today. We hear quotes about Dr. King’s ‘beloved community’ and his dream of reaching that ‘mountain top.’ We sing songs that lift every voice. We share a meal and hug our brothers and sisters. We volunteer and perhaps we spend some time in solace reflecting on our nation’s history– searching for answers, hope and courage.

I’m a big proponent of knowing our history so we do not repeat it– sometimes today it feels as if we certainly are repeating parts of our nation’s past. Elements of racism, inequality, and the false promises of a growing economy reaching every American.

Looking to our past to learn and be inspired by Dr. King’s resoluteness through similar and unquestionably worse conditions– provides us valuable perspective and direction.

And yet, while history can inspire and teach us valuable lessons, alone it cannot lead us through society’s trials of today. Today, each and every one of us must reach deep down in our bones to find the courage to further the mission of Dr. King’s beloved society. History cannot make that conscious decision for us– it can show us stories of sacrifice, pain, and bravery – but for us to further the mission of true freedom today, we must search our souls, consciously decide to flip the switch in our minds and muster the moral clarity to act in the name of peace and justice for all.

We will have to earn and fight for a greater justice and true freedom, just like past generations. But, let us not be confused– the landscape we face today is different. The tools and methods of oppression and injustice today are more obfuscated. Injustice today is mystified, seen as an outlier, or questioned. Which is why we must shine a light and uplift the voices of the poor, the marginalized, the most vulnerable.

And they have voices– let us not speak for the voiceless – for they have their own voices. Instead, as the song says, let us lift every voice.

We have our work cut out for us, but a simple look across this room and read reports across this nation, I know there is an America out here that has yet to reach its full potential– yet to live up to the values we put on paper– life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – justice for all.

Let us celebrate the progress that has been made and reject the cynicism that hatred hopes to instill. Celebrate justices won and recommit to justice not yet achieved. We have not yet arrived at King’s mountain top. There may be slips and storms along our ascend to that mountain but let us not be distracted by the goal: true freedom for every human being – black, white, Latino, Asian, all our brothers and sisters. Economic freedom, social freedom. We know we haven’t gotten there yet when:

- The poverty rate in 1969 is roughly the same as the poverty rate in 2020. And during this same period, the wealth of the top 1% of Americans doubled. Freedom not yet achieved.

- When recovery efforts on Puerto Rico are delayed and stalled for political purposes, we know freedom not yet achieved– and justice delivered too late.

- When in Haverhill, we have some precincts with a median income of $29,000 neighbored by another precinct with a median income of $120,000– we know freedom not yet achieved.

- And despite making up less than 1/3 of the general American population, more than 60% of the prison population is black or Latino. Freedom not yet achieved.

And as we work to address injustice, we cannot lose sight of the ways and means to which Dr. King operated: love. Only through relentless and unwavering love can we continue the work of generation past and preserve progress for generations to come.

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