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At King gathering, Simon champions value of education 

Daily Herald
January 20, 2012
By Daily Herald Report

Speaking to a gathering of Northwest suburban community leaders honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. Thursday night, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon called education the great equalizer.

“I appreciate that we’ve come a long way, and I appreciate that we have a long way to go,” Simon said. “It’s all about education. We have to renew how we prioritize education.”

Simon was the keynote speaker at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance and Celebration Dinner sponsored by the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations.

The event took place at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Center in Hoffman Estates, with Hoffman Estates Village President William McLeod acting as dinner chair.

The commission is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “informing, educating and affecting multicultural change.” It is headed by the Rev. Clyde H. Brooks, a suburbanite who became acquainted with King when the civil rights leader demonstrated for affordable housing in Chicago. Brooks helped found the first commission dinner in King’s honor in Arlington Heights in 1971, three years after his assassination.

The events were moved to Chicago soon after that, but 11 years ago, the commission decided to host two events annually and added one in the Northwest suburbs.

In recent years the local celebration has expanded to recognize the achievements of various racial and cultural groups since King’s death. It also honors the individuals, businesses and organizations who continue to promote King’s ideals.

“What it’s all about is challenging others to do bigger and better things,” Brooks said, then stressing the evening’s theme: “Without an education, you’re going no where.”

The commission also is using the suburban and city celebrations to raise money for University of Illinois scholarships for graduates of Chicago Public Schools.