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Civil Rights Leader Joseph Lowery Speaks at 20th Anniversary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast


The Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery encouraged others to reaffirm their dedication to social justice at the 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast on Monday.

“This is a good time to renew our pledge,” he told the sold-out audience of 2,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Monday morning. “Justice delayed too long is justice denied,” he said, reflecting on Dr. King’s powerful “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Calling Dr. King a “nonviolent revolutionary,” Rev. Lowery said he “gave hope to the hopeless, and power to the powerless.”

Named one of the nation’s “15 Greatest Black Preachers” by Ebony magazine, Rev. Lowery received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the country’s highest civilian honor – in 2009. Also last year, President Barack Obama tapped the civil rights leader to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration.

As this year’s breakfast keynote speaker, Rev. Lowery brought a perspective based on a lifetime commitment to social justice. His legacy as a civil rights leader began in Mobile, Ala., a half-century ago when he led the desegregation of buses and other public accommodations. He also was a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), serving as vice president and then chairman.

The 2010 milestone breakfast also featured remarks from Dr. Michael Lomax, UNCF – the United Negro College Fund – president and chief executive officer.

In his remarks, Lomax acknowledged the work of those who came before, giants such as Dr. King and Rev. Lomax. Praising the battles that were won to open doors, “I have made it my personal mission and career to take the revolution that they started to the next level,” he said. “The right to go to college is incomplete if you cannot afford to go to college.”

UNCF, which partners with General Mills to sponsor the annual breakfast, for 66 years has been helping students reach their full potential. Sixty percent of students supported by UNCF are the first in their families to attend college. Sixty-two percent are from families with annual incomes of less than $25,000.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast got its start here in the Twin Cities when UNCF and the General Mills Foundation joined together to host a community celebration to honor the legacy of Dr. King. What started with 800 guests in 1991 now has grown to be one of the largest King holiday breakfasts in the nation. Past speakers have included Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret), Yolanda King and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. More info is at

Keeping with tradition, the breakfast was broadcast live on Twin Cities Public Television and will be rebroadcast several times in the coming days. For the first time this year, the broadcast was available for viewing by members of the Minnesota National Guard serving in Basra, Iraq.

With a theme of “Dream from the Mountaintop, Share the Legacy, Shape the Future,” the 2010 breakfast included musical performances from the Ladies of Jazz Project and students at the High School for the Performing Arts.

The breakfast also featured the presentation of the Local Legend and Emerging Legend community service awards. This year’s winners are Louis J. King II, president and chief executive officer of the Summit Academy; Philip Brunelle, founder and artistic director of VocalEssence; and Simone Fuller, a junior at Cristo Rey High School.

As in past years, the St. Paul Area Council of Churches hosted several simultaneous free breakfasts that allowed guests to watch the Minneapolis event on television. More information on these sites is available at

UNCF – the United Negro College Fund – is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 39 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 18 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at

The General Mills Foundation, celebrating more than 50 years of giving, is a champion for stronger communities. In fiscal 2009, General Mills community support reached $91million, representing more than 5 percent of pretax profits. More information is available at


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