Sub-freezing temperatures didn't stand in the way of a record turnout for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance on Monday.
The only alternative to Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of reconciliation is the nightmare of a divided nation.
That was the message Monday of the Rev. Frederick G. Sampson, the featured speaker at Lawrence's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance.
More than 1,000 people heard Sampson speak at Kansas University's Lied Center. It was a record turnout for the annual event, which had been held at the 850-person capacity Plymouth Congregational Church the past two years.
"Your presence here speaks most eloquently about your commitment as well as a consistent sense of optimism," Sampson told the audience.
However, Sampson, pastor of the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, said much more than an annual observance is needed to keep King's dream alive.
"I want to ask that you would focus not on simply celebrating the dream every year," Sampson said. "What will happen after the benediction? If we don't commit ourselves, the dream is going to run into a nightmare."
Sampson said King's peaceful struggle for reconciliation had its antecedent in the Bible. Sampson related the story in which Jesus requested a drink of a Samaritan woman even though Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other.
"He disturbed her into a new destiny," Sampson said. "He looked beyond her color. He looked beyond her nationality."
Sampson said King in his struggle for reconciliation "did as much for white America, Jewish America and all the others as he did for black America."
Sampson said now there is a need for reconciliation not only across racial lines but across generational lines. He said some black parents today "are more afraid of our kids than our grandparents were of the Ku Klux Klan."
He said the United Stated needs to focus less on events outside the country and more on the violence within its own borders.
"We cannot police the world with open crime in our own towns," he said.
Sampson saw a metaphor of hope in Monday's musical performance by the local Martin Luther King Community Choir, which received a standing ovation from the audience.
He said the 100-plus group of mostly children and teens achieved harmony because, despite their "different heights, different colors, different backgrounds ... all eyes were on one leader."
Lawrence Mayor John Nalbandian took part in the event. He said the King holiday is "a day to remind ourselves of the sense of obligation and responsibility that each of us has for the other."
Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell also participated in the event. He said different segments of the local community had achieved some reconciliation but needed to do more.
"You always have to keep trying to get to the promised land. ... In Douglas County, a lot of people are making that same journey," Chappell said.
The ninth annual King event was sponsored by the Ecumenical Fellowship, a group of eight local churches.