Ambassador Andrew Young Celebrates, Challenges and Motivates Nashvillians at 16th Annual MLK Fellowship Breakfast
This year, we had the pleasure of hosting Ambassador Andrew Young at our 16th Annual Fellowship Breakfast. We hold this event to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it has become a great way to kick-off a day of celebration in Music City.
Young was a close colleague and friend of Dr. King’s and has strong Nashville memories of coming here to learn from a movement led by student, church and civic activists – who were committed to changing the face of segregation. The milestones that were collectively achieved across the south paved the way for people like Rep. John Lewis (Georgia – D), Diane Nash, C.T. Vivian, J. Alexander Looby, George Barrett, Rip Patton and John Seigenthaler as well as Young and countless others, to make an indelible mark on American culture.
Ambassador Young, who now chairs the Andrew Young Foundation, is a former two-term mayor of Atlanta, Georgia Congressman and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. As a global statesman, and lifelong advocate of building collaborative partnerships across socioeconomic groups, he is masterful at using public policy to transform societies for the greater good.
Speaking to a standing-room-only audience of over 600 people, Young graciously allowed a peek into his mindset as he shared his philosophy on developing collaborations, opening up our arms to the opposition, what he practices to create healing and where he places his faith. Tapping multiple references to what he learned from other civil rights leaders, threads of his faith and the importance of believing were woven through each topic that he so eloquently touched during the nearly one hour speech.
“I don’t worry about the future, because as Ralph Abernathy used to say, ‘I don’t care what the future holds, ‘cause I know who holds the future.’ And so I look at the events of the last couple of months different from most people…I don’t question what happened on one side or the other [of the 2016 United States election]…my question is, ‘what is the Lord trying to do with us now!’”
Discussing everything from the current political climate to the importance of practicing the principles that MLK made famous, Young was resolute in demanding that we not focus solely on what ‘our circles’ say, but to reach ‘across the aisle’ in whatever way that means [politics, socioeconomic, sexual preference, etc.].
“The civil rights movement, if nothing else, taught America that it must not…should not be judgmental of each other,” said Young. “There’s a hymn that says it’s not through swords loud clashing…nor roll of stirring drum…but through deeds of love and kindness…that the heavenly kingdom comes. And so this is a day of service, is a day bringing the kingdom into Nashville and Martin Luther King’s birthday reminds of that, but we cannot just do it on MLK’s birthday. We have to do it every day.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry welcomed Young during the program which also featured performances by The McCrary Sisters and Lawrence Thomison whose soulful sounds brought the audience to its feet. Music City’s first female mayor also challenged the audience, asking the business community to actively participate in an initiative she launched Opportunity NOW, a youth jobs program that she believes supports Dr. King’s dream.
“When we connect youth to opportunity and jobs, we can connect them to hope. I want our youth to have what everyone in our city should have – a chance to succeed. As Dr. King said, the “vaults of opportunity” are far from empty. Let’s open them up so our young people can not only survive, but thrive,” said Mayor Barry.
Starting in February 2017, young people and employers will be able to start making connections through an online portal accessible at on.nashville.gov.
“We learn how to work by working, and I believe the work experiences our young people will get from Opportunity NOW will change a lot of lives – and even save a few.”
After stirring words from Mayor Barry, and being introduced by Stacey Garrett Koju, a founder of Bone McAllester Norton, Young shared that he was living in New York in the 60's when he and his wife learned of what was happening with the student movement in Nashville. The news of Nashville sit-ins prompted him and his family to move back to the south.
“Nashville is a leading city, where I came to learn from the non-violent teachings of people here – citizens and students, during the civil rights movement,” said Young. “So did Dr. King. It is wonderful to be back in Music City again to celebrate and honor my friend, as well as discuss our country’s current political landscape. We must be hopeful for our incoming administration, reach out to people who have opposing views and work together to heal our country.”
In a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, at a meeting held after the breakfast, Mayor Barry sat down with Ambassador Young to discuss Nashville, then and now. The conversation between the two was interrupted as Young accepted a surprise call from President-elect Donald Trump. Ever gracious, he offered the phone to Mayor Barry to also speak with Trump.
“I appreciated Ambassador Young giving me the opportunity to speak with President-elect Trump, and I intend to continue having an open dialogue with the Trump administration so that I may advocate for federal policies and programs that will keep Nashville moving forward,” said Mayor Megan Barry, the first female Mayor of Nashville. “Our city would not be where it is today without the vision, leadership and desire of people who came together to create a country that adopted tolerance and acceptance.”