Contact: Paul Vornholt
Mayor's Office, 286-2200
January 16, 2006
Speech Given by Mayor Tom Barrett for Dr. Martin Luther King Day
Today we honor a mortal man and an immortal dream.
During his lifetime, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to create common ground where people from all walks of life can join together to resolve issues to help make us all free.
Working alongside people of all ages, races and backgrounds, Dr. King encouraged all Americans to work together to strengthen communities, reduce poverty, and acknowledge dignity and respect for all.
While that important work tirelessly continues to this day, his dream remains beyond our reach.
Statue of Dr. Martin Luther King on display in Milwaukee, WI.
Photo credit: City of Milwaukee Department of City Development
Certainly, gains have been made. But far more needs to be accomplished.
Fortunately, hundreds of thousands of Americans dedicate their lives day in and day in and day out to address the barriers that remain standing.
But for all of us here in Milwaukee, there is a more familiar, immediate and insidious shackle that needs to be broken.
At the close of the year 2005, 122 Milwaukeeans had become fatal victims of violence. One hundred twenty-two families were torn apart from their normal lives by yet another tragic, senseless death.
Less than a month into 2006, we have had to cope with a shooting of an innocent little girl playing with friends on a school playground.
We need to come together to bring Dr. King back into our lives, our neighborhoods and, yes, our playgrounds.
Dr. King lived under the constant threat of harm to him and to his family. His response was not violence. He rose above violence.
His response was to speak the truth, share his dreams, and march toward freedom. His response was to shine that bright light of truth on the shortcomings and injustices that work to prevent a true and democratic nation for us all.
We need to rekindle and strengthen that light. We need to keep marching toward that dream, using faith and hope to sustain our resolve.
This great city of ours needs for all of us to stand together shoulder to shoulder. Together, we need to work to assure something as simple as the safety of our children on school playgrounds. Together, we need to liberate our neighbors who feel imprisoned in their homes.
Our city is not just buildings or parks or beaches or stadiums. Our city is a community . . . a community of families.
Our city is the families that work hard, play in the parks, go to the ballgames, and celebrate at the festivals . . . these are our families.
The families limited by poverty, or filled with fear, or scarred with grief, or so, so very tired of being intimidated by bullies and gangs and violence . . . these are our families.
We need to raise a collective voice and shout a message, loud and clear to those feel free to terrorize our children, our neighbors, our families, our city.
Not in our neighborhoods!
Not in our schools!
Not in our lives!
We must enlist community and business leaders to go into our schools and deliver a message of hope, commitment and responsibility.
We must expand our efforts to involve responsible men in the lives of young boys.
We must strive to improve our workforce development efforts and increase the number of skilled workers. We must increase entrepreneurial opportunity and raise the bar on summer jobs.
You might hear or read sensational reports that ask us to believe we cannot reach the land of Dr. King's dream because we are afraid, because we are thwarted by some mythical law about "No Snitching."
I cannot and will not accept that our community can be controlled by such a myth. What is a snitch, anyhow?
Are snitches people who are aware of what goes on in their neighborhoods and who know right from wrong? Are snitches people who refuse to hide the truth behind a curtain of lies? Are snitches people who demand accountability from those who try to tear down all the good that we all work for in our city of families?
Well, if that's the case, where do I sign up?
We must take a stand. We must send the message – NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD! NOT IN MY SCHOOL! NOT IN MY LIFE! NO MORE!
Last year, 2,600 guns were taken off our streets - the highest number in the last seven years. In the last five years, our police have taken 11,633 guns off the streets of Milwaukee.
Think about it – over 11,600 guns in 5 years. And each gun was loaded with the potential to create more murders, more shooting victims, more robberies, more suicides, more fear, more grief and more intimidation.
The answer to this problem is not to allow more guns on our streets, into our neighborhoods, our festivals, our buildings; to endanger our children; our families. The answer is not to rule that it is perfectly reasonable to let people carry concealed weapons.
The answer is: No more!
No more illegal guns and criminals who carry them! No more bands of bullies looking for an opportunity to demonstrate their unfeeling ignorance through mob violence binges.
A bullet killed the dreamer, but we can't allow it to daunt the dream.
We must all heed the words of Dr. King and accept nothing less than peace on our streets as well as peace throughout the world.
Dr. King said:"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."