WPTF Features

McCrory Attends His 1st NC Employee King Service

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina state workers can help achieve the goals of equality and economic progress that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought by staying educated and unleashing the potential of each individual, new Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday.

"We have to make sure there's opportunity for anyone who studies hard, who works hard and lives a life of high values," McCrory told several hundred people gathered for the annual state employees' King birthday observance at a downtown Raleigh church. "Then they can fulfill and exceed our potential."

McCrory said if King were alive today, he would speak to them about the people who are unemployed and homeless. He reminded the crowd King had traveled to Memphis, Tenn., in 1968 to support the economic well-being of sanitation workers. King was killed during the visit.

"He was on an economic crusade in 1968," said the former Charlotte mayor, who was sworn in to office two weeks ago Saturday.

The din from the crowd grew as McCrory acknowledged state workers have faced difficult times, too, since the Great Recession. They didn't get a pay raise for three straight years until a 1.2 percent increase last summer and saw health care costs soar.

"I know you're working hard, and I know you're providing a lot of services," he said. "But I'll also need to let you know that (there's) a lot of people who have no jobs whatsoever.

King - the 84th anniversary of his birth was earlier this week - "would be recognizing the people that are underneath the overpasses sleeping or the people who are behind the shopping centers in the woods sleeping or trying to sleep and not eating," the governor said.

McCrory's brief remarks lacked political criticisms offered last year by then-Gov. Beverly Perdue.

The Democrat said the slain civil rights leader would have been troubled by efforts to require photo identification to vote and by education spending cuts - both sought by Republicans. Perdue vetoed a photo ID bill, but GOP legislators overrode her budget vetoes. McCrory supports photo ID and didn't criticize the legislative spending plans.

Friday's keynote address by the Rev. William Turner, a Duke University Divinity School professor and Durham pastor, lamented the loss of the dignity of work and the disillusionment of the current generation. At the same time, Taylor said, young people are being slaughtered through reckless gun violence.

He called upon attendees to draw on King's bravery in the civil rights era to remove the institutions of discrimination.

"Without courage, we're as good as dead," Taylor said, adding "courage is required to put saner, more human economic value on service."

McCrory and Taylor were introduced by McCrory chief of staff Thomas Stith, who is black. "I realize I wouldn't be standing here before you today without the sacrifices Martin Luther King made so many years ago," Stith said.

The service was held at the predominantly black First Baptist Church, which alternates hosting the event with the predominantly white First Baptist Church on the opposite corner of Capitol Square.

McCrory planned to speak on Monday's federal and state King holiday at an interfaith prayer breakfast in Durham. The governor also urged citizens in a proclamation to spend the holiday participating in service projects.


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