Sonali Samarasinghe provided the keynote speech for Ithaca’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration on January 21, 2013. During her talk she spoke about how she had to flee her native Sri Lanka with only a few belongings, one of which was the book her father gave her, What Manner of Man, a biography of Dr. King.”My presence here is a testament to the inspiration (King’s) life has been, not only to Americans but to the entire world,” said Samarasinghe.
The day’s events focused on “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” and included a morning workshop provided by the Dorothy Cotton Institute’s 2012 delegation of civil and human rights leaders. They discussed their recent visit to the West Bank and what they saw and learned there after meeting with Palestinians engaged in non-violent resistance.
In addition to Samarasinghe’s speech, the luncheon also featured performances by Vitamin L who sang two songs from their new CD entitled Sing for Dr. King!. Cal Walker and John Simon also performed. The day concluded with a live viewing of the 2013 presidential inauguration.
The title of the day’s events, “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” comes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a Dream” speech that he delivered on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
The full text of King’s speech, including an audio file, is available online.
A local newspaper report on Samarasinghe’s talk is available here.