Brazile thanks King for her 'head start'

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile at the 2014 Martin Luther King breakfast in Minneapolis.
Tim Nelson/MPR News

Thousands of people crowded the Minneapolis Convention Center on Monday to mark what would have been Martin Luther King's 85th birthday.

Among them was veteran Democratic political strategist, columnist and television commentator Donna Brazile. She delivered the keynote address to 24th annual Martin Luther King Holiday Breakfast, and thanked the slain Civil Rights leader for paving the way for her success.

She talked of growing up in Louisiana, and the impact of King's work and the memory of his assassination in Memphis on her life.

She also noted Minnesota's role in the civil rights struggle, particularly Hubert Humphrey's historic 1948 address to the Democratic Convention, and his role in the administration that pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

"I'm honored to be in the great state of Minnesota," she said. "There are so many in this room, who are still playing a very important role, a vital role, in keeping the legacy of Hubert Humphrey alive."

"You see, I was a kid who got that head start in life in 1964, thanks to Dr. King, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, and the vision and sacrifices of those men and so many others," she said.

The holiday was also marked at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul with a discussion of the upcoming legislative session sponsored by the Council on Black Minnesotans. That's followed by the traditional march from the History Center to the Capitol, where there will be a program of speeches and performances.

Gov. Mark Dayton told a crowd of around 800 people at the Minnesota History Center that inequality persists and called on individuals to change society.

"We can choose a path of reaching out to those who are disadvantaged, who are cut off, who don't have hope and opportunity, or we can turn away in silence," Dayton said. "We can reach out to stand up against injustice and the violence and hatred that still infects our society, or we can turn away with indifference."

The keynote speaker was U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who used his speech to renew his call for an increase in the minimum wage.

"These low-wage workers that I'm talking about -- this low pay and this burgeoning debt, which is literally squeezing the middle class -- is not what Martin Luther King had in mind," Ellison said.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday is the third Monday in January. Government offices around the state are closed for the King holiday.

In Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated, an audio recording of an interview with King will be played at the National Civil Rights Museum. The recording sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King's wife more than 50 years ago.

Historians generally agree Kennedy's phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband's arrest in October 1960-- and Robert Kennedy's work behind the scenes to get King released -- helped JFK win the White House.

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