Hagerstown resident Bonnie Gordon talked Monday about how Martin Luther King Jr. helped Americans understand for what the Declaration of Independence stood.
“King taught Americans that everybody is created equal,” she said. “He showed us that black people should have rights, too.”
Gordon was among area residents who spoke on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about the impact King made on America. She said that by standing up for the rights of black people, he raised awareness of the importance of civil liberties.
“He fought for freedom of speech, the freedom to vote and the freedom to protest,” she said.
Mary Lou Brooks of Funkstown said King not only supported equality for black people, but for all Americans.
“He brought a lot of people together working for equality,” she said. “He worked on helping minorities and poor people.”
Hagerstown resident Bryan Martin, 58, said King changed America because of his focus on equality and because of the attention he brought to the issue.
“He showed that we’ve really got a ways to go, but now everybody does have an opportunity,” he said. “There’s equality for everybody.”
Maeghan Lois, 22, of Funkstown, said King’s impact on America can be seen based on how people change every day.
“Everyone’s getting a lot more open-minded,” she said. “King made a huge difference.”
Lois added, however, that “racism is still in the picture, and we have a long way to go. ... But it’s going down, and things are better than they used to be.”
Germantown, Md., resident Farhad Quader, 21, said King’s impact goes beyond what happened in America.
“He revolutionized the whole world,” he said. “We’re not just segregating people now; we’re just all among one another trying to survive in the world.”
Chip Wood of Hagerstown said King’s impact could become even greater by applying his message to people today.
“I saw where he made a statement that a person has to decide if they are going to be taking from society or are they going to be contributing to society,” he said. “It just illustrates what any person needs to decide with their life.”
Wood said quotes like that are why King is remembered.
“People have to decide the extent to which they will help out and pull their load,” he said. “I respect and admire King for that.”