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Martin Luther King Jr.: 'Real Agent of Change'

To get an idea of the lasting impact of MLK's contributions, we asked members of the community to share their thoughts and feelings about the famous civil rights leader.

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we decided to get out in the neighborhood and talk to folks, young and old, who could reflect on who the civil rights leader was and what he still means to so many people.

Patch caught up with some members from the community at on Monday and asked them to describe the man in their own words.

Joan Clark, 66, Rocky River – “As a child growing up in Cleveland, my parents raised us to look at others equally. But times were different then, and in certain circles, perspectives on race varied. I think Martin Luther King forced people to take a good, long look at themselves. I think some people didn’t like what they saw. He rewrote history. Suddenly, America became synonymous with equality, not segregation, thanks to MLK.”

Will Richards, 24, Westlake – “I was born just a few years after Martin Luther King was given a national holiday. In grade school, I remember learning about him and what he contributed. It’s almost unreal to think that African-Americans weren’t afforded the same rights as others. We’ve come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go. We were fortunate to have MLK. He’s the kind of person that comes around only once or twice in a century. Hopefully, we’ll see more like him in the years ahead.”

Tom McCullen, 41, Lakewood – “I like our current President, but unlike Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. was able to bring about real change. If others could dream the way he did, the world would be a much better and different place. You want to be a real agent of change? Study MLK.”

John Kassimatis, 37, Lakewood – “He was the beacon for racial change. Too many of today’s leaders are short-sighted when it comes to people’s rights. As a member of the gay community, it’s almost unbelievable when you hear someone like Pope Benedict XVI say that gays threaten the future of humanity. It’s absurd. Remembering who Martin Luther King Jr. was and what he stood for can be applied to what gays are fighting for in terms of equality. Gay marriage will one day be legal, and it will be due to people like King who was able to bring about change by opening up people’s hearts and minds.”

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