Niagara Gazette

Communities

January 21, 2013

Uplifting words, songs mark Martin Luther King Jr. event

Niagara Gazette — Niagara University alumnus Hugh B. Scott, federal magistrate judge for the Western District of New York, thought he'd never see the day.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first black president, Barack Obama, took the public oath of office in a grand display in the nation's capitol.

It's a far stretch from the world he grew up in, with the 6 p.m. evening news broadcasting civil unrest and people being carted away in paddy wagons and blasted by fire hoses, presumably guilty of nothing more than yearning to be equal. And fighting for it.

"My generation saw the civil rights movement unfold on television," he said. "Saw it unfold because of our parents' struggles. During my lifetime, I saw how violent and hateful people could be. And in a country founded on principles of democracy and equality, how could that ever happen?"

Scott presented the keynote address Monday night at Niagara University's Martin Luther King Jr. event, the highlight of a week-long celebration of service in the community.

He said processing the events he witnessed on television wasn't difficult because he came from a well-educated family. But not every family is like this, not everyone has the access to education he had.

Fixing the problems the country faces today, including the numerous arrests and convictions of minorities and poor youths, starts with education, he said.

It isn't about aiming for the highest goals possible, ones only the smallest percentage achieve, he said. Instead, the goal should be learning as much as possible, the best chance many have at leaving the ghettos and slums behind.

"We need to hold our schools accountable for providing a quality education," he said. "Our children need to know only a miniscule amount of people will get a contract with the NBA or the NFL, or a contract with a record company to perform and write rap music. But a real education could be their ticket out of the slums of this country." 

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