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Celebrating Living History

Welcome to the Living History Awards Ceremony.  Let me begin by thanking Senator Verna Jones and our Legislative Black Caucus for their leadership throughout the year and also for the efforts that they’ve taken to pull us all together here this evening.

I also want to thank our colleagues who are here from local government.  Some of you made a trek to come up here and I want to acknowledge Frank Cooper, the president of the Charles County Commissioners, and also Edith Patterson, Commissioner, and also I know Rick Pollitt is here, the County Executive of Wicomico County.

And Comptroller Franchot, thank you for being here as well tonight along with Delegate Mathias from Ocean City and each and every one of you, thank you for being here.

Also thank you to the talented young men and women who filled up this great space from Bowie State University.  (Applause)

And, of course, the young people from Colors Performing Arts, who are always my favorite opening act.  In Prince George’s County, whenever the O’Malley/Brown campaign would roll through there, they were always there, faithful and true.  So it’s great to see you guys and thank you for coming down here this evening.  (Applause)

It’s also good to see members from our Commission on African American History and Culture here as well.

We are coming together during an important month, a time when we talk about our African American ancestors, the generations of hardworking Marylanders who sacrificed to create a better State for not only their own children and their children’s children, but also for all of us who share in this part of God’s plan for this great State of Maryland.

We talk about legacies and we talk about the movements that brave men and women from every race, class and creed have led together to make real the revolutionary principles of our nation nearly 190 years after our revolution.

But these are not the dreams from some long-ago distant past; the trials, the triumphs, the adversities.  They are living history also of those who choose by their actions, by their talents, every single day to prove that there is more that unites us than divides us.

For Tyrone Taborn it is in the building of partnerships, collaborations, to expand opportunity for our children, creating pathways to success in our changing global economy, building on the strengths of our neighbors, through a lifetime of learning, of searching.

For Lucille Clifton it is in the words of hardship, of hope, of those larger things that extend beyond any one generation, beyond outworn cynicisms to the essence of our human spirit.

For Dr. Henry Brooks, and the people of goodwill he leads at the Maryland Cooperative Extension, it’s an application of our rural traditions through the challenges of these modern days, using our shared values and our understanding of nature and community to strengthen our families and defend our quality of life.

So tonight we have the occasion to celebrate their hard work, their talents, their achievements — those things that have kept our State moving forward, and tomorrow we’ll return to the hard work of forging a better future.

And that’s really where our greatness lies, isn’t it?  It’s not any one decade or movement or for one life — it is the sum of all those experiences together that create that arc of history that “bends towards justice,” in the words of Dr. King.

For all of the different fields that Tyrone Taborn, that Lucille Clifton, that Dr. Henry Brooks have chosen, all of those different paths have at least all brought us here to this point in time.  And from here we move forward.

You know, I’ve heard our State’s flag described once by the architect of the Reginald Willis Museum. He described the colors of our flag, saying that the black and white are the shades that distinguish us, the red of our flag is the blood that has come onto all humanity that all of us share as children of God, and the gold is the opportunity that the future holds for us, if we should choose to pursue it, that better future, together.

And that’s our freedom and that’s our responsibility — to leave our State a better place than we found it.  In our State, in our One Maryland, where our diversity is our strength and there is no such thing as a spare American.

I ask you also tonight to remember the family of Specialist First Class Micheal Matlock, who was laid to rest.  Many of you on your way down here might have noticed the colors of our flag at half mast.  It is for that neighbor of ours, African American proud hero, who left behind a young wife and a one year old baby.  There are many people who are called upon to do far more for the future than we have been blessed and fortunate to be called upon ourselves.

But tonight is a night of celebration, celebration of the things that bring us together, and also a celebration of the rich, proud, ongoing history of African American people here in our great State of Maryland.

Thank you.  (Applause)

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