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Call to action issued at Community Leaders Breakfast

Joey Matthews | 1/22/2015, midnight
“It’s not time for us to be silent!” Gov. Terry McAuliffe thundered. “It’s time to fire it up!” With smiling ...
Mr. Martin Photo by Paulette Singleton

“It’s not time for us to be silent!” Gov. Terry McAuliffe thundered. “It’s time to fire it up!”

With smiling Baptist minister and Mayor Dwight C. Jones seated nearby at the 37th Annual Community Leaders Breakfast to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gov. McAuliffe sounded every bit the mission-driven evangelist as he called for the community to rally around his agenda for more jobs, a commitment to early childhood education and full restoration of rights for nonviolent ex-offenders.

“I promise before I leave office to do more than 20,000 restoration of rights,” he declared to heavy applause. “That would be three times more than any other (Virginia) governor.”

The governor, who sounded a similar theme in his State of the Commonwealth speech two days earlier, made his well-received remarks before about 500 people last Friday at the Dr. Claude G. Perkins Living and Learning Center on the campus of Virginia Union University, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Gov. McAuliffe called Dr. King “a true and authentic American hero.”

He said there is “unfinished business” to achieve the dream of racial equality and social justice Dr. King sought.

“Are we satisfied that African-American men and women have a higher unemployment rate than their white counterparts?” the governor asked.

“Are we satisfied that 400,000 Virginians are without access to quality health care that’s already paid for?” he added, continuing his push for Medicaid expansion.

Mayor Jones, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of South Richmond and chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia who has formed a strong alliance with Gov. McAuliffe, saluted the governor’s enthusiastic presentation.

“I know he’s a Catholic, but he has a lot of Baptist preacher in him,” Mayor Jones said as the audience laughed.

The mayor seconded the governor’s call to action. “My hope is our humanity will be awakened and we will be moved toward helping the underrepresented and the least of these,” he said.

He noted his administration’s efforts to fight poverty, including the formation of the Office of Community Wealth Building last summer, and pointed to recent initiatives to honor Richmond African-American history makers by naming Richmond streets and a South Side courthouse after several who were instrumental in the city’s progress.

Mayor Jones, a Virginia Union alumnus, called the historically black university “a jewel to be treasured by the community.”

George Keith Martin, managing partner of McGuireWoods law firm’s Richmond office and rector of the University of Virginia board of visitors, delivered the keynote address.

He said Dr. King “laid down his life” in pursuit of his dream that all men would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Mr. Martin eloquently echoed the call to serve others through

“acts of love” to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

“I believe it is the solution to the problems in our com-

munities,” Mr. Martin said. “It is the solution to the seemingly intractable problems around the globe.”

Mr. Martin weaved stories of transcendent Richmond figures who have selflessly helped others, such as the late tennis great and humanitarian Arthur Ashe Jr.; the late Richmond postal worker and philanthropist Thomas Cannon; longtime VUU professor Ruth Coles Harris, who is now retired, the first African-American woman in Virginia to be certified as a public accountant; and retired executive Bob Argabright, now a Richmond Public Schools volunteer.