PASCO -- What started as a personal acknowledgment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy has become a part of the annual celebration of his life.
A group of school children placed red roses at the foot of King's statue at Pasco's Columbia Basin College before speakers remembered King during the 21st annual bell-ringing celebration Monday.
At the first celebration, it was a single red rose that Laurie Lamb, a retired Pasco High School teacher, and Skylar Lamb, her then 1-year-old grandson placed at the foot of the statue.
Lamb, who lived through the civil rights movement, said she fell in love with King's message of equality the first time she heard his words.
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She remembers how Pasco police officers would patrol the halls at times of high social tension, when she was at McLoughlin Middle School and later at Pasco High School.
"People just weren't ready for change, and change was coming," she said.
And she remembers how devastating it was when she heard King had been shot and killed April 4, 1968.
Diversity is something Lamb's family embraces. Some of her eight grandchildren are of mixed race.
"I call us the United Nations," she said.
King gave a great gift to the community, Lamb said.
"What we do with that gift will determine our future," she said.
Keynote speaker Dana McLeod told about 250 people Monday that King's legacy needs to be paid forward. She described how everyone essentially was standing on someone else's shoulders.
King wasn't afraid to tackle difficult subjects, said McLeod, information technology project manager for Lockheed Martin. She said King expressed dissatisfaction with social injustices and challenged people to change how they thought.
"Whether you are African-American or not, you are still very much a part of this dream," she said.
Miss Juneteenth Arisha Fite, 17, a Kamiakin High School junior, said Martin Luther King Jr. Day isn't just a day off from school or work.
"He put his life on the line for you," she said.
During the ceremony, Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell received the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award.
Mitchell is someone who illustrates King's message of "the fierce urgency of now,"said Dennis Yule, a retired Superior Court judge.
All 25 years of Mitchell's legal career have been spent in public service, Yule said. And he chose to return to his hometown and work for justice instead of pursuing a career as a professional football player.
King encouraged people to contribute to make life better for everyone, McLeod said.
"There is still work to do," she said.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org