Tag Archives: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Respect Club members Simone Fielding and Alice Petasek

Missoula’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

Respect Club members Simone Fielding and Alice Petasek
Respect Club members Simone Fielding and Alice Petasek

Missoula knows how to celebrate.

As the sunlight began to wane on the cusp of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, Coach Wayne Tinkle, University of Montana Grizzly basketball players, and others enjoyed cups of steaming hot chocolate. Members of elementary and middle school Respect Clubs passed out glow sticks as young and old gathered at Caras Park for the Youth Voices: Speaking Up and Speaking Out rally.

Emcees McKayla Hansen and Austin Heaton
Emcees McKayla Hansen and Austin Heaton

Respect Club’s McKayla Hansen and Austin Heaton of Sentinel High School shared their stories to open the rally, then kept things rolling throughout. We were treated to wise words from Trail Bundy of UM’s Kyi-Yo Native American Student Association and Vance Home Gun of The Salish Institute, and to a song from Big Sky High School singer/songwriter Jessy Stobart. Following the rally, many in attendance took part in a lighted march to Saint Paul Lutheran Church for the culmination of the evening’s festivities.

Three young members of the Lewis and Clark Peace Choir
Three young members of the Lewis and Clark Peace Choir

A poignant slide show played as hundreds filed in—filling every seat and spilling into the aisles—to honor the legacy of Dr. King. Montana’s original blues artist, Andre’ Floyd, and the Lewis and Clark Peace Choir sang for us. The winners of the nineteenth annual Martin Luther King Jr. art and essay contest were introduced, too. Preschool- through high school-aged students were asked to respond to this MLK quote: “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

In addition to being recognized at the Community Celebration, the top three finishers in each category and age bracket had their winning entries published in the Missoulian. A shout out to Hellgate High School for sweeping the ninth-twelfth grades contest.

We listened to thought-provoking words from Pastor Chris Flohr, Jamar Galbreath, Floyd Kumahlo and Dr. Paul Gordon Lauren. In the keynote address, Dr. Lauren said that fifty years ago, he did not envision we’d elect an African American president one day. Not once, but twice. Nor did he imagine he’d see the day when his preschool-aged grandson would bring home a picture of Dr. King. When asked about the picture, his grandson replied, “That’s King Arthur. He saved the world.”

Would that our world was saved. Changed, yes, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work remains unfinished. As the evening’s program came to a close and we prepared to go downstairs to share a community meal, our voices blended in unison as together we sang:

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We’ll walk hand in hand someday.

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall live in peace someday.

National Day of Service

On January 19, 2013, I, along with others nationwide, responded to President Obama’s call to action to serve as a volunteer for the National Day of Service. I was the first volunteer to arrive that morning at The Parenting Place, a community-based non-profit whose mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect through strengthening families.

After welcoming me, staff member Megan asked, “What organization are you with?”

“I’m not with an organization,” I said, explaining I’d signed up through the National Day of Service website. I didn’t tell her the rest of the story: I’d been a volunteer in various capacities since my teenaged years, but this was the first time my volunteerism had included the possibility of winning a trip to D.C. for a presidential inauguration.

Megan directed me to an office to store my coat. As I headed in that direction, I heard her tell her co-worker, “They don’t know each other.”

The rest of the group, five women and four children, trickled in. After brief introductions, we posed for a photo before settling in to work. 

iserve: Margie, Rebecca, Josie, Betsy, Karen, Carla, Linda, Aydin, Nicholas, and Nico (not pictured: photographer Katie).

Strangers at the onset, we learned of our connectedness as our day progressed.

Book lovers Aydin, a second grader; his brother, Nicholas, a third grader; and I were tasked with the job of cleaning and organizing the library. I enjoyed chatting with the boys about books, authors, and illustrators.

When Aydin pulled an Eric Carle book off a shelf he said, “Oh, my teacher would love this book!”

“Who’s your teacher?” I asked.

“Mrs. Dungan.”

I smiled. Kathy Dungan teaches at the elementary school my sons, Eric and Colin, attended. She is our friend and neighbor, and had been to our house for dinner the previous weekend. We’ve shared many conversations about education, books, and reading throughout the years.

Parenting Place library
Karen, Nick and Aydin on library duty

Carla—mother of Aydin; Nicholas; and Katie, a sixth grader and our photographer extraordinaire,—sang Kathy’s praises as she described how she has facilitated educational opportunities for Aydin that meet his abilities. We shared our mutual admiration for the 1st and 2nd grade multiage classrooms that my boys, and now Aydin, have benefited from.

The Parenting Place
Carla disinfecting with Simple Green

Linda brought her four-year-old son, Nico, to help. They were champions in converting a back room into a space designated for babies and toddlers. Nico, Aydin, Nicholas and Katie did a wonderful job serving as game testers, too.

The Parenting Place
Linda washing the small pieces and parts
The Parenting Place
Nico, master toy-sorter

Josie and Margie organized the art supplies, then Josie and I moved to the puzzle and game nook. We discovered that Josie’s daughter and my son Eric served as AmeriCorps volunteers 2011-2012 for City Year, an organization dedicated to keeping students in school and on track for graduation.

Craft nook at the Parenting Place
Josie cleaning and sorting the art supplies

While enjoying a bagel, I learned that Betsy’s daughter was packing to leave for a study abroad program the following day. Talking about the challenges of limiting luggage to “fifty pounds for six months,” I shared our experience of weighing Eric’s suitcase—also with a fifty-pound weight limit—on our veterinarian’s scale before he set out for twelve months in Argentina.

The Parenting Place kitchen
Betsy making the kitchen sparkle

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

We served together, children and adults, to honor President Obama and the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. No one in our group won the trip to D.C., but we were grateful for the opportunity to serve. We began our day as strangers. We ended it as friends.