Though he was speaking to a room populated mostly with adults, Pace Goodway’s message Monday morning applied to young people — and to the older folks gathered in the Effingham County administrative complex.
Goodway was the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance breakfast, and he spoke of how the late civil rights leader wasn’t afraid to be bold and wasn’t afraid to be first.
“We celebrate this time for a man who lived for only 39 years,” Goodway said.
But in his short time, King accomplished a great deal and left a legacy for others to follow.
“He was already at Morehouse College at 15 years old,” Goodway said of King, who also skipped the ninth and 11th grades. “At 18 years old, he had a full-time job. He got a doctorate degree at 24. By the time he was 28, he had met two presidents. I used to look forward to 28. Now I look back at it.”
King was still in his 20s when he was chosen to lead the first bus boycotts in Selma, Ala.
“At the age of 35, he had already met four presidents,” Goodway said. “He got another honorary doctorate degree and he started two non-violent campaigns. And at the time, he was the youngest to win a Nobel Peace Prize.”
As part of his message to “be the first,” Goodway also implored those in attendance to be the first to do what is morally right on and off the job. He said that it is “not our jobs as neighbors to see through each other, but our job as neighbors to see each other through.
“As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘We didn’t come to America on the same ship, but we are all in the same boat.’”
Goodway even related a story from his childhood, when he played youth baseball. In the first game of the season, as a leadoff batter, he hit the ball and sprinted toward the base. He got there but watched as the other team threw the ball to another base, and he was called out.
Goodway, to his chagrin at the time, had run to third base from home plate, rather than to first base. But he also pointed out that others will follow and learn from your experiences — as the rest of his team did from him.
“None of my teammates ran to the wrong base,” he said.
Goodway, a motivational speaker and author, also urged the adults in the room to get involved with young people.
“Our youth get zero percent of our concern,” he said, “but they get 50 percent of our interest and they make up 100 percent of our future. They need you. They need me. They need all of us. There is hope ahead.”
Parade grand marshal Rev. Curtis Warner echoed Goodway’s call to being bold.
“If you make that first step,” Rev. Warner said, “then everything will be beautiful.”
Goodway also recalled another of King’s proclamations, that anybody can be great because anybody can serve.
“You don’t have to be great to get started. But you have to get started,” he said. “You have to get started if you want to be great. The opportunity of a lifetime lasts for the lifetime of the opportunity.”