Late senator's son among speakers at Paine event

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Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance at Paine College, U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told a crowd Monday that today's generation can and should continue the work of Dr. King.

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Sherie Sturgis and her son Rodney share a moment during the 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Observance at Paine College's Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Sherie Sturgis and her son Rodney share a moment during the 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Observance at Paine College's Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel.

"If anything, we need to do the work of Dr. King in these times as much as ever before because we don't have Dr. King to inspire us every single day to go out there and march for civil rights," said Kennedy, the youngest son of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and nephew of president John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, a Democrat from Rhode Island, was the day's keynote speaker at the request of the the Rev. Larry Fryer, an organizer of Monday's event. The program involved local politicians, several area pastors and a racially diverse crowd holding hands at times and singing such songs as We Shall Overcome and Lift Every Voice and Sing .

Fryer said that in the past, separate King Day events were held in Augusta, but the two came together this year at Paine's Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel as a sign of unity.

Before a packed chapel, Fryer and others presented Kennedy a plaque in honor of his father, whom Fryer called "one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate."

Kennedy went on to refer to his family's storied past and how he never knew his uncle "Jack" and was just a baby when another uncle, Bobby Kennedy, was assassinated.

"I often feel to myself, I wish I was around back then (as a politician)," he said, but noted that "I was born to live in these times."

Kennedy spoke about current issues that he says connect with King's message of equality for all.

He said that in his time as a politician -- first being elected on the state level as a representative at age 21 and then to Congress at 27 -- he's fought a bill that targeted illegal immigrants and led the push for national health care reform.

As for the pending health care reform bill, a topic his father championed, Kennedy said he believes "something will get passed," calling it "a moral argument" that all citizens get equal access to medical care.

Referring to himself as "a gratefully recovering alcoholic," he also said he's pushed for greater understanding and fair insurance coverage for those struggling with substance abuse and mental illness.

While talking about his father, Kennedy addressed today's special election in Massachusetts to fill his dad's seat in the Senate. He told the crowd a high turnout would be key for the Democratic side to win, saying before the event that "failure isn't an option."

In closing, Kennedy returned to King's message of effecting change for the better, saying anyone, whether having a famous last name or not, can do so.

"Frankly, his message was a message that should resonate with all of us, that all of us can be great because all of us can serve," he said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails to see all 52 photos from the 19th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Observance at Paine College.

Comments (13) Add comment
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Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/19/10 - 03:46 am
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why wasn't he in haiti?..

why wasn't he in haiti?.. Oh.. well Augusta is close enough I suppose.

goldie53
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goldie53 01/19/10 - 08:12 am
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Emerydan, I normally don't

Emerydan,

I normally don't address ignorance as your statement above. Yet, here I go. Such a stupid statement to be said during a natural disaster such as a earthquake of this magnitude. Many people including children are injured/died during this catastrophe.
With that said, I must ask are you saying Augusta is too black for you? If so, move. I hear Forysyth County GA is still around.
Remember karma still happens. Watch where you step.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/19/10 - 08:50 am
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By bringing the Massachusetts

By bringing the Massachusetts senate race into the King Day speech, Kennedy took a day for solemn reflection and service to others and turned it into a tirade of hate, division and desperation.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 01/19/10 - 09:03 am
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Hey goldie, I live in Forsyth

Hey goldie, I live in Forsyth County and right you are. It is still around and doing great. Low crime. Great education. 6th highest income per cap in the country.

samlongshaft
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samlongshaft 01/19/10 - 09:34 am
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Too bad he didn't stay in RI

Too bad he didn't stay in RI or, better yet, as Dan says, Haiti! !

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/19/10 - 12:58 pm
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drive around parts of

drive around parts of Augusta, and it looks very similar to haiti.

Lorraine
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Lorraine 01/19/10 - 01:00 pm
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Goldie53 ignorant individuals

Goldie53 ignorant individuals like Emerdan will always dwell among us. They really are hopeless individuals without a cause. As you so eloquently stated, there is no need to address their ignorant statements. Do not waste your energy on such heartless individuals.

jack
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jack 01/19/10 - 01:45 pm
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Gee, he was sober long enough

Gee, he was sober long enough to give a speech in Augusta? Wonder if he swims as well as his dad. Leave it to a Kennedy to make a memorial into a political event, just like Dad's funeral.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/19/10 - 03:40 pm
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I hope they had an open bar

I hope they had an open bar if a kennedy showed up.. otherwise he must have been mightily dissappointed.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/19/10 - 03:41 pm
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facts are facts.. you may not

facts are facts.. you may not like it biuts its true. You could take photos of port au prince and some in the bethlehem and Turpin hill areas of Augusta... and I bet you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/19/10 - 04:55 pm
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Luckily no one was killed by

Luckily no one was killed by a drunk driver

WW1949
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WW1949 01/19/10 - 11:46 pm
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Looks like Mr. Kennedy did

Looks like Mr. Kennedy did not get his wish in MA. Thank goodness the seats in Congress are changing.

goldie53
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goldie53 01/20/10 - 01:41 am
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Thanks Lorraine. Stupid is as

Thanks Lorraine. Stupid is as stupid does. There are many inbreds in the Augusta area. Emerydan may be one that calls his Daddy/Granddaddy. With that said, I am now silent.

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