ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Inequality persists in American society, Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday, and he called on individuals to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by changing that.
Dayton spoke to about 800 people at a forum at the Minnesota History Center sponsored by the Council on Black Minnesotans, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
"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, the state's first black congressman, who renewed 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.
Elsewhere, the 24th annual MLK holiday breakfast sponsored by the General Mills Foundation was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile paid tribute to Minnesota's role in the civil rights struggle. She noted then-Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey's civil rights speech to the 1948 Democratic National Convention and his role as vice president in the administration that pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
"''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," she said.
Brazile, who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, talked of growing up in Louisiana and the impact King's work had on her life.
"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.
In Rochester, Linda Keene, executive director of the Girls Scouts of the Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, told a Chamber of Commerce "We Have a Dream" breakfast that much work remains to be done in Minnesota, the Post-Bulletin reported.
"Minnesota has some of the worst disparities in the nation in terms of achievement, also employment," she said. "It's really a problem for people. ... It's really startling, and it's not getting better."
In St. Cloud, Mayor Dave Kleis apologized for his city's past of racial discrimination. He said St. Cloud celebrates its past accomplishments, so it must also take responsibility and apologize for its past failures.
Kleis' apology, at an event at St. Cloud State University, was in line with recognition from a number of speakers about how much the city has changed, the St. Cloud Times reported. Three black men now hold high-profile leadership roles in the city: Police Chief Blair Anderson, Metro Bus Executive Director Ryan Daniel and School Superintendent Willie L. Jett II.