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Friday, April 5, 2013

Former Sen. Scott Brown keynote speaker at Nashua Crown Plaza Hotel’s ‘Keep the Dream Alive’ event

NASHUA – A former Massachusetts senator, two Native American leaders, and a woman whose relatives vacationed with Martin Luther King Jr.’s four young children shortly after their father was assassinated, comprised an evening of recognition for an American hero lost 45 years ago.

The keynote speaker for Thursday evening’s 11th annual “Keep the Dream Alive” event at the Nashua Crown Plaza Hotel, dedicated to the memory of King, was former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. ...

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NASHUA – A former Massachusetts senator, two Native American leaders, and a woman whose relatives vacationed with Martin Luther King Jr.’s four young children shortly after their father was assassinated, comprised an evening of recognition for an American hero lost 45 years ago.

The keynote speaker for Thursday evening’s 11th annual “Keep the Dream Alive” event at the Nashua Crown Plaza Hotel, dedicated to the memory of King, was former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

Brown is currently working at the Nixon Peabody law firm and as a Fox News contributor. Representatives for the National Cultural Diversity Awareness Council, which founded the event after its group’s formation in 2000, said he was selected due to the adversity he had overcome in his own life.

Brown, who grew up in Wrentham, Mass., reflected on his time as a young boy in the 1960s and recalled the way his neighborhood changed in the weeks after King was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Brown said when he was 8 years old, he had a black friend close to his age but his community did not approve of their friendship.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. Shortly after (Dr. King) was assassinated, the relationship and demeanor I had with that family changed...,” he said. “I have no way to reconnect (with them) really, but that life experience, it taught me to not worry about the color of someone’s skin or their beliefs.”

Brown told the crowd of some 70 people he often asked himself, “What would Martin Luther King Jr. do?” when he served as a U.S. Senator from 2010 to 2013, after filling Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat in a special 2010 election.

Brown’s speech turned into what the awareness council chairman and founder Wayne Jennings called “interesting” as Brown took a political tone with his remarks. He said he believed if alive today, King would be dissatisfied with the “petty partisan interests” that plague Washington, D.C.

Brown added he felt there were several elected officials who took their citizens’ votes “for granted” in the political sphere.

“They don’t even have to come home anymore,” Brown said, adding that he worked incredibly hard to represent Massachusetts and read “every bill” during his time serving in the U.S. Senate. He left office earlier this year after losing his re-election race to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat.

George Thomas, who is a descendant of Pequot tribe situated near Foxwoods in Connecticut, and Daryl Blackeagle Jameson, vice chairman of the Pocasset Wampanoag tribe in Fall River, Mass., presented Brown with a blanket and intricate silver jewelry after his speech.

Thomas said his Native American peers in Massachusetts were supportive of Brown throughout his heated campaign against Warren, for protecting issues that were important to native people, he said. Thomas pointed to Brown calling Warren out publicly for “using” her Cherokee heritage to achieve a prominent teaching position with Harvard University Law School, which Thomas said Brown handled appropriately and fairly.

“Scott doesn’t know this, but I was a lifelong Democrat...,” he told the crowd upon presenting the former senator with an honorary award, as well as the traditional gifts.

Thomas joked, “We’ve all been seeing a lot of the unique politicians who frankly should be incarcerated themselves ... (but) when we see the good ones, we don’t forget it.”

Following a musical performance by Thomas and Jameson, Brown told a gaggle of reporters outside the event he was “not quite sure” if he would seek out a New Hampshire political seat in the future, though he has several speaking events coming up in the area.

“I’m not quite done with politics,” Brown said, “but I’m not going to rule out anything right now because I haven’t really thought a heck of a lot about it.”

Eleanor Dunfey-Freiburger, an activist and educator, redirected the evening back to King’s memory with a story about her family’s involvement with the influential King family. Dunfey-Freiburger’s brother took King’s wife Coretta Scott King to Lake Winnipesaukee with her four children the summer after the assassination, to help them relax and to keep them out of the public eye.

“(They) were afraid someone would go after the children,” Dunfey-Freiburger said. “Coretta found it very difficult to try to let them have fun while still harboring that fear.”

She echoed Brown’s sentiments, that those attending Thursday’s event should honor King’s life by giving back and serving their community.

“As Scott Brown told us, when we leave here, we need to act,” she said.

Jennings said he was very pleased with the evening and hoped for the future, people “remember what happened on that day,” the day King was killed.

Jennings formed the council shortly after he said he recognized a need for it, when New Hampshire was the final state in the nation to recognize the federal holiday devoted to King. That was less than 14 years ago, in 1999.

“My hope is that people will respect each other for not only their cultural differences but respect them for their differences of opinion,” Jennings said. “It’s OK to disagree.”

The National Cultural Diversity Awareness today serves to provide community events and educational programs, as well as develop alliances with various private and public entities, to increase awareness of those with ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds.