MIDWEST CITY — A diverse group of speakers shared inspiring words at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer breakfast Monday, including an FBI agent who said the civil rights leader's “dream” helped him decide his career path.
James E. Finch, who is based in Oklahoma City as FBI special agent in charge, was one of two guest speakers who spoke at Midwest City's 16th annual prayer breakfast honoring King. It was at the Reed Conference Center, 5800 Will Rogers Road.
Finch, originally from Omaha, Neb., told the prayer gathering of about 400 people that he was 9 years old when King was shot and killed in 1968. He said he was nearing his 18th birthday when his mother's employer, an FBI agent, asked him if he would consider working for the law enforcement agency.
Finch said he was forthright with the agent, telling him that he thought of the federal agency as the “big police” — and all he knew of the police was seeing them beat blacks in his neighborhood. Finch said the agent responded simply, saying that the FBI protects the rights of all citizens.
Finch said King's teachings, particularly his dream of a nation where people would be judged on their character, not race, were among the factors that influenced him to eventually go to work for the FBI. He said he is proud to work for an agency that protects Americans' civil rights.
“I know Dr. King is smiling on us today,” Finch said.
The breakfast also included comments from Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House, who said King, like the biblical prophets, spoke “truth to power” even though it made others uncomfortable.
“Spiritual people throughout the ages were always those who were called to speak out about things that just weren't right,” Batchelder said.
Music and prayers from several metro-area clergy leaders were interspersed throughout the event. The theme was “The Wisdom of Peace.”
The Rev. Puong Ong Lau, with the Edmond Chinese International United Methodist Church, spoke of King's legacy — his leadership during the civil rights movement and his teachings of nonviolence.
“We are all children of the most high God, and we are to treat each other that way, the way Dr. King taught us to live among each other,” Lau said in his prayer.
The Rev. Charles Richmond, with Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, also led a prayer.
“We ask that you help us, O God, to fulfill the dreams of this great man, for Lord, there are great works among your people today,” he said.
Meanwhile, the breakfast committee presented its Clara Luper Community Service Award to the Rev. George E. Young Sr., pastor of Holy Temple Baptist Church.
The Rev. Thelma Chambers-Young accepted the award on her husband's behalf.