MLK Jr. Birthday Rememberance - The Story of Metuchen's Own Memorial

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Chris Morrisson sent us this speech which he made when Conor O'Mara's Martin Luther King Jr. Park was rededicated. In honor of the great man's birthday tomorrow, we reprint Chris' warm and compelling words and entreat you all to pay a visit to the Memorial, the only one of its kind in the area:

It is my great honor and privilege to speak today as part of the rededication of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Park here in Metuchen.   I would like to thank Conor O'Mara, the Boy Scouts, and the O'Mara family for making this possible.    


One phrase always comes to mind when I think of Martin Luther King, Jr. "That they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  It is a phrase that always reminds me that we need to look deeper not only into others but into ourselves.  We need to remember there is more to each of us than the color of our skin, the spelling of our names, or the church where we bend our knees. 

As some of you know, my wife and I have been blessed with six children.   Two years ago, my son, Rourke, the third child of the six, had to do a report on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for school.   Rourke works hard in school, but he was procrastinating a bit on this report.  When I asked him how the report was going he did not seem particularly enthused.   It was clear that he didn't quite understand why Dr. King was an important figure.  
I explained to him that Dr. King was a great man.  I told him he had to imagine our country back in the 40s and 50s and 60s to understand.  I explained that some people were not allowed to drink from just any water fountain.  And some people were not allowed to vote or were beaten for trying.  I explained that some restaurants wouldn't serve some people, and some people couldn't go to good schools or get good jobs.

Why?  Simply because of the color of their skin.  
I explained Dr. King stood up for what was right even though he had to have been afraid.   He did what was right no matter what other people said or did.  He did what was right whether he was cheered or spit upon.  I told him that Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that there were people who wanted to hurt him or even kill him because of what he was doing.  He also knew in his heart that what he was doing was right and God was on his side . . . and so he kept going.  
He would not lay down.  
He would not turn back.

I told Rourke that Martin Luther King, Jr. fought to his last breath for justice for all men.   He fought to make this country live up to the idea that all men are created equal and that all men should be free.  
I told him that Martin Luther King, Jr. was my hero.  
Rourke's eyes brightened in surprise.  He didn't know that men as old as his father could still have heroes.   
Then last summer, over a year and a half later, we were visiting with family.

My brother-in-law, who is a Jesuit priest, was on the back porch holding court with my four oldest children.  I sat in the background listening to their conversation.  Normally he asks them what they are learning in school and then poses math or religion questions to them.  On this particular day, though, he asked each child, "Who is your hero?"  
I would like to report that all four responded "Daddy is my hero."  Alas, that would be a lie.  None of them selected me.  Of course the two youngest children were not part of the conversation, and I have been working on them ever since.    
On that day two of my children selected Michael Phelps who was in the midst of winning eight Olympic gold medals.  It was hard to argue with that selection.  Another child selected Spiderman.   It is tough to compete with a man with radioactive blood who can spin a web, any size.  
But then my brother-in-law asked my 8-year old son Rourke who his hero was.  There was only the slightest of pauses, as Rourke gathered himself.  He then said firmly "Martin Luther King, Jr."    
My brother-in-law was impressed and asked him why.

He answered simply, "Because he fought for everyone to be treated fairly, no matter what."
One of the great joys of parenthood is teaching our children and seeing their successes.  I am sure Mr. and Mrs. O'Mara would agree with me on that point today.  I am also sure they would agree that one of the great surprises of parenthood is how much our children teach us.    They teach us about ourselves and remind us of what could be.  Of what still can be.  On that day last summer, my son Rourke taught me a great deal.   He taught me that the message of Dr. King is real.    

And so today we as a town rededicate this park to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   May it be a place for silent contemplation and a place for the ringing echoes of laughter.  May it be a place where children whose ancestors came from every corner of the earth might come to play and be together in peace and brotherhood.  
It is entirely fitting that this event was spurred by a child-become-a-man, Conor O'Mara, who, in service to his community, chose to once again shine a light on this place and on the man whose name it bears.

It is proof that the message of Dr. King is universal and continues to reverberate in each passing generation.  Thank you, again, Conor O'Mara. 
Today we rededicate this park in our town, and in so doing may we each rededicate ourselves to the proposition that all men are created equal. And may we each rededicate ourselves to measure each other not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character

Thank you. 

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