King commemoration celebrates opportunity

Kitsap County commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday this week with a propulsive address by a local pastor who maintained that the convergence of technology and King’s dream leads to an unprecedented opportunity for people of all races and economic classes.

“We are living in a flat world,” said Bishop Lawrence Robertson, president and pastor of Emmanuel Apostolic Church in Bremerton, who was the featured speaker at Monday’s event at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. “In a flat world I don’t have to get to heaven to get a piece of the pie. In a flat world I buy my own pie, split it up and sell the pieces to everyone else.

“There are all kinds of opportunities open to us in a flat world,” he said. “In a flat world you do not call yourself a victim. In a flat world my destiny is up to me. In a flat world I get what’s mine.”

The commemoration, the 14th to be held in Kitsap County, featured representatives from local government and clergy. Choral and dance selections were also featured.

The event was moderated by Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Ted Spearman, who met King on one occasion. “When I met him I wondered how a person who was only 5-6 could present himself as a giant,” he said. “And he had the most remarkable eyes, that were coming from a place that I did not understand.”

North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer compared King to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, as they were both ”transformational” figures.

“If Dr. King were here he would want us to reflect on how much has been accomplished,” Bauer said. “And how much there is left to do. I’ve been through many diversity training exercises, and I’ve always been saddened by the people who organize them. Dr. King would have wanted more than grudging compliance or tolerance. He would want us to see each person as an individual and not as a stereotype.”

Robertson, who sat unobtrusively in a second-row seat onstage during the program, began his address with a discussion of a book he had read, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas L. Friedman. He explained the book’s concept, how technology has erased social boundaries and increased personal opportunity.

The initial discussion was clinical and academic, but after a few minutes Robertson kicked into high gear. He began speaking more rapidly, in a preacher’s cadence.

He raised his voice, circling around the main theme and repeating the key phrase. And he would always bring it back to the interactive question, “Am I talking to somebody here?”

Some examples:

• “In a flat world I am not waiting for Rev. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to pick me up at the bus stop in the civil rights bus. I am going to be doing my own thing. I am not waiting for Al Sharpton; I’m not waiting for President Truman or any other leader to do this thing in my life because in when it’s a flat world I can do my own thing by myself because I have the opportunity to lift myself up out of my situation.

• “In a flat world, a poor black lady with a history of sexual abuse can become the richest lady in the world. In a flat world the richest man in the world never finished college.

• “In a flat world, it is possible that our country is quietly getting past race. I am not naive. There are those who say there is still racism in the world. But the world is flat enough. Young people know that old folks try to discourage them from their dreams. But you can out-Google them. You can outrun them. You can outlive them. You can outthink them. The world is just flat enough for you young people that you can walk past that bigotry. You can walk past that hatred. You can walk past that opposition and attain the goals and the dreams that God has begun because of the prophetic dreams that Dr. King had. No one can stop you from accomplishing your dreams in a flat world.

• “Am I talking to somebody here?”

“In a flat world,” Robertson concluded, “no one can stop you from living out your dreams. In a flat world you are already overcoming. In a flat world the sky is opening up for you and you will be successful. In a flat world you will achieve your dreams. And it is flat enough now that I will go back to my seat.”

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