Martin Luther King Day was celebrated in Casper Monday, starting with a traditional march from City Park to the First United Methodist Church downtown. After an introduction from Casper NAACP President James Simmons, Casper Mayor Paul Bertoglio read a proclamation.

MLK Day proclamation:

"Now therefore as mayor of the city of Casper, I do hereby proclaim, Monday, January 17th, 2011, as Martin Luther King Day in Casper, and urge our citizens to join with me in remembering Martin Luther King Jr., and reaffirm our faith in non-violence at a time when violence, in all its ugly forms, seems to be a current way of life."

The keynote speaker at the celebration was the Honorable William F. Downes, Chief Judge for U.S. District Court.

Pernicious discrimination:

"Bombings, lynchings, water cannons and police dogs could not stem the tide of history. The blood of the innocent was the price, but liberty was the prize. Yet while we rightly celebrate these historic achievements, we cannot afford to become complacent. So long as pernicious forms of discrimination exist in this country, we cannot be content. So long as many of our countrymen remain indifferent, or even hostile, to Dr. King's message, there is work to be done."

Judge Downes was later asked how a war veteran like himself can reconcile war with the civil rights movement, which was typified by non-violent resistance.

Evil cannot be abated by reason:

"There is evil in the world that cannot be abated by reason and good will. There are people in this world who would destroy us, because they fear us, not because of our weapons but because of our ideas. They're terrified of us, and they are not amenable to reason and good will, and so we have an Armed Forces for that reason."

Judge Downes was also asked if legislation about immigration reform or defining marriage were civil rights issues; he declined the question, saying as a federal judge, he can only speak from the bench on matters of pending legislation.

Mr. Simmons, who emceed the event, shared his insight before concluding the celebration.

Divinity intervenes:

"There's a passage in the Bible that talked about when a lion lay down with a lamb. And I didn't understand that passage and it seemed like it always stuck in my mind. And one day, a man explained that to me, and he was a Muslim, and he told me what that particular verse meant was God has the ability to interrupt the nature of whatever he made. And so, in this country, you see that all the time, that divinity is intervening in our lives and making a better life for all of us."

Simmons thanked all who participated throughout the celebration, including the city of Casper, NOWCAP for the color guard, the Walking with Christ Ministries Choir, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Deborah Bulluck with ServeWyoming, Holy Cross Food Bank and the Rev. Steve Burnett for hosting the celebration.

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