Beholden to a dream

Dan Pelle photo

The Rev. Percy “Happy” Watkins delivers Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech Tuesday.

January 16, 2013 - Updated: 7:43 a.m.

For the first time since Martin Luther King Jr. Day began to be observed in 1986, the Rev. Percy “Happy” Watkins won’t deliver King’s stirring “I Have a Dream” speech in Spokane on the holiday.

Instead, Watkins will speak in Boise before the Idaho Legislature.

That’s why Tuesday found Watkins, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church, speaking King’s words at Providence Holy Family Hospital on the civil rights leader’s birthday. Watkins served as the hospital’s chaplain from 1993 to 2004.

King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was first delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1963 in front of a crowd of 200,000 civil rights supporters. Since then, it’s been known as a call for equality for all.

While King’s words will be 50 years old this August, they still resonate today.

Watkins said bullying represents a new kind of hatred in today’s world and is the cause of many instances of violence. The antidote, Watkins suggested: a return to family, home and the kitchen table.

Watkins said he often delivers King’s speech 30 to 40 times over a two-week period leading up to the federal holiday.

“We still have racism, we still have segregation,” Watkins said. “We have a lack of understanding.”

But there is hope “as long as we’ve got humanity,” he said.

The ceremony Tuesday was brief. After Kathy Romano, chief executive of Holy Family Hospital, spoke and Sister Annette Seubert led the audience in prayer, Watkins introduced Lee Lee Everette, who sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Precious Lord.”

Watkins said a few words before he began the speech.

“Here at the Holy Family institution, we face the differences of today and tomorrow,” he said. “I still have a dream.”


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