Former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins has urged students in Brooklyn to make every effort to fulfill the dreams of slain civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Dr. King said you can be whatever you want to be – just be the best,” said Dinkins in delivering the feature address at a Black History Month celebration at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and University Hospital of Brooklyn, attended by students at three area schools – P.S. 235, Parkside Preparatory Academy and the High School for Human Rights.
“I say to the children: When you get out in the world, you’ll see you’re just as good as anybody and better than most,” he added.
The city’s 106th mayor said “time has not eroded Dr. King’s dream,” stating that, despite progress in racial equality and immigration, numerous challenges still remain.
“The day will come when we’ll outweigh our differences,” he said, adding that “the city of immigrants” is still “met with discrimination and prejudice.”
Dinkins, a professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, told the students they have a “rare opportunity to do well and do good.”
“You are here today because of the sacrifice of those who went before you,” he said.
“Children, you got to know there’s nothing more important to you: Don’t be a bully, and the big ones take care of the little ones,” he added.
Born in Trenton, NJ, on July 10, 1927, Dinkins graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree (honors) in mathematics from Howard University in 1950.
Six years later, he received a Bachelor of Laws degree from Brooklyn Law School.
Dinkins is the founding member of the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State, the Council of Black Elected Democrats of New York State and One Hundred Black Men.
In January, Downstate Medical Center paid homage to the legacy of Dr. King during a presentation of the 2nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Award.
Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, this year’s award went to civil rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network and host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation.
The first recipient of the award, in 2012, was H. Carl McCall, former New York State Comptroller and current chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees.
According to attorney Kevin Antoine, the medical center’s chief diversity officer and the creative and organizing force behind the MLK Leadership Award, the theme of this year’s event, “Why We Can’t Wait,” was taken from Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
In welcoming remarks, Antoine said the letter was written in answer to a group of clergymen who had criticized Dr. King for engaging in nonviolent protest against the city’s segregation laws.
Calling his campaign “unwise and untimely”, they urged him to wait for local leaders or the courts to make reforms.
But Dr. King responded, “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never,’” Antoine said.