The annual Drum Major for Peace Award was given to Mayor Emeritus Dick Edwards at the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission tribute honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., event on Friday.
Jolie Sheffer, English and American Culture Studies professor at Bowling Green State University of BGSU, delivered the keynote address, “The time is always ripe to do right,” to a full atrium of more than a 100 at the Wood County District Public Library.
“There are countless quiet acts of kindness and compassion I have observed,” HRC co-chair Mary-Jane Saunders said of Edwards. “I have come to have a profound respect for him.”
She then talked about his work with the HRC, Not In Our Town and the Bowling Green Interfaith Breakfast.
“Mayor Edwards has a deep compassion for all residents of our city, particularly the poor,” Saunders said.
Upon receiving the award, Edwards gave a short speech in which he described the HRC as “acting and serving as the conscience of the community,” and thanking them for the award and their work, with an eye to the service the organization provides to the community.
“I really wanted to commend them for their good work and their preservation and advancement of human rights in Bowling Green. You do indeed serve and act as the conscience of the community,” Edwards said. “I’m very, very honored and deeply touched by this honor they’ve given to me today. It means a great deal to me and it’s obviously something I feel very strongly about. I’ve enjoyed thoroughly the work with the commission, NIOT and the Interfaith Breakfast.”
Sheffer’s keynote address stressed the larger movement represented by King.
“The beautiful and terrible truth is that King was no more and no less than a powerful figurehead of many interrelated efforts, which were organized and enacted by ordinary citizens who decided to be part of a larger movement for social change. King clearly understood he was a publicly recognized symbol of the movement, but that the movement was much larger than any one person,” Sheffer said.
Sheffer also talked about who should act and when action should be done.
“The time is always ripe to do right. The moment to act against injustice is always now. The moderate’s call for patience does not make anyone’s lives better; for indeed, justice delayed is justice denied,” Shefffer said.
In addition to teaching, Sheffer is the director of the Institute for the study of Culture and Society at BGSU. In her teaching, research and writing she has a deep involvement in diversity, equity and inclusion with both race and gender.
Music was provided by Ed Duling, organist of First Presbyterian Church, the Bowling Green High School Madrigals and HRC member Sheila Brown.
Brown closed out the event with a her musical tribute to Edwards, singing Nina Simon’s “Feeling Good.”
It was a piece she chose with the help of Edwards’ wife, Nadine, because they “wanted to do something that was uplifting.”
“Mayor, you made this place a better place to live,” Brown said.