On this Martin Luther King Day, I have more reason than ever to reflect on how much that one man stands for -- in what has changed in this country, and what still needs to change.
For the past 18 years, our community has celebrated Dr. King's legacy with a weekend of events centered around the Palmetto Youth Center. The center recognizes five community leaders every year for their service to Manatee County, as reported by Timothy Wolfrum in this story.
I was stunned when I learned a few weeks ago that their choices included me this year. While I still can't believe it, the honor -- Outstanding Citizenship Award -- brought with it a tremendous sense of responsibility ahead.
Here's the standard set for this nomination: "This award was established to honor those individuals who have demonstrated high standards of fairness, justice and the ideals of Dr. King and have made outstanding contributions to the community."
Which brings me to why I'm blogging on this. The esteemed Pat Glass (the REAL outstanding citizen of Manatee County, as established on the fairgrounds last week)introduced me in a humbling video, bestowing me with far too much praise for doing what I love: journalism.
But because of those expectations, I post my own comments here, to remind myself that I need to keep the faith in our newsroom at the Herald, or wherever a story needs to be told.
Pat, thank you. YOU are the one who’s on the Bradenton Herald’s front page today as Manatee County’s distinguished citizen of the year. My gosh, how humbling to be introduced by you.
A huge thank you to the Palmetto Youth Center. I’ve been in a state of shock since Frankie Craddock called me with the news.
And gratitude I can’t begin to measure goes to my staff at the Bradenton Herald -– many of whom are working as we party here!
In trying to grasp why I would receive such a huge honor, I realized that this is really about your all’s belief in me and the Bradenton Herald and what we represent every day in this community.
Central to the thinking of Martin Luther King is the concept of the "Beloved Community."
Well, this community has more heart and soul than any other place I have lived. So, as the editor of Manatee County’s main news source, it’s a sobering responsibility to be the soul and the conscience of this community.
But that’s my lifelong passion, and what we strive for every day at the Herald.
We’ve been through a tough couple of years and like every other business have had to change some of the things we do. But one thing remains constant –
Now, more than ever, our community needs the Bradenton Herald as the trusted source for local news and information, protecting and advocating the public’s right to know.
The Herald is committed to passionately uphold the First Amendment and to embrace the sense of community that defines Manatee County.
Martin Luther King said that “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
This award has put that challenge at a new level for me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The other winners tower over me:
Gwen McElroy, the Louise Rogers Johnson Award
Elihu Wallace, the Seymore E. Sailes Award
Byron Shinn, the Edgar H. Price Award
Raymond Bellamy, the Trailblazer Award
This year's first-place MLK essay winners were also phenomenal, as you can read and hear through these links:
Madelyn Kumar, middle-school first-place winner
Dakota Lawson, high-school first-place winner
One final thought: If you ever get the chance to ride in a parade, do it! I loved getting to sit on the back of a convertible Mercedes Benz, chauffered by Bob Davis as the parade wound through Palmetto Saturday afternoon, and we threw candy and beads to thousands lining the streets.