Miami-Dade County

‘Humanity — that is what we have to save,’ says actor Danny Glover during MLK Day event

5000 Role Models of Excellence Project 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast

Role Models of Excellence Project honored actor and political activist Danny Glover, actress Jo Marie Payton, film producer Will Packer, and actor Jussie Smollett for its 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast.
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Role Models of Excellence Project honored actor and political activist Danny Glover, actress Jo Marie Payton, film producer Will Packer, and actor Jussie Smollett for its 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast.

Political activist and award-winning actor and director Danny Glover capped his lively keynote address at a Miami Beach event commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with an unconventional call to action, not about race relations — but about climate change.

“We face global warming and climate change right here in this state. Right here in Florida. Right here in Miami,” Glover said. “We have to talk about that and we have to talk about how to inspire young people to talk about that and to be unafraid to talk about that.”

The breakfast was hosted by the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a local scholarship and mentorship program for local at-risk students of color founded by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson in 1993. Glover was the annual event’s first featured speaker in 1996 and returned as a headliner this year along with two other black film stars, producer Will Parker and “Family Matters” actress Jo Marie Payton.

“Humanity — that is what we have to save. Humanity is our responsibility,” Glover said to the crowd of nearly 2,000 business leaders, politicians and other local influencers gathered at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The breakfast marked what would have been King’s 90th birthday. Presentations included 47 scholarships to South Florida high school seniors.

Attendees at the annual fundraising breakfast included former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Miami Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel and Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald. Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, and Miami Herald Haiti/Caribbean Correspondent Jacqueline Charles were honored during the event along with former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost to Ron DeSantis in the recent gubernatorial election.

The day’s speeches were designed both to address pressing issues and to inspire.

“Never ever let your ZIP Code define who you are and where you go in life,” Charles told the crowd.

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Albert Hernandez III, center, bows his head along with fellow scholarship winners during a benediction as part of the program during the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project’s 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Other speakers addressed the need to combat the “school-to-prison pipeline” through scholarships and mentorships provided by 5000 Role Models. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez presented a check for $379,190 from the county to fund 23 scholarships. Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho celebrated better access to education and rising graduation rates across the county in all demographic categories.

California Congresswoman Karen Bass offered an apology to federal workers affected by the government shutdown, now in its fifth week.

“I hope very much that we can bring this completely unnecessary shutdown to an end immediately,” Bass said.

Glover began his speech in the conventional way — with anecdotes from his early life as an activist and government worker in San Francisco and touted the importance of the work of 5000 Role Models.

The Hollywood star known for sometimes-controversial political views — such as support for the Cuban 5 — became more animated and radical as he continued. Near the end, Glover referenced one of King’s most controversial speeches, “Beyond Vietnam,” which called for a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and critiqued Washington’s profit-centered values in foreign affairs. It also sought to connect the Civil Rights movement to other burgeoning political movements for peace and progress across the nation.

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U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, actor and activist Danny Glover and U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell attended the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project’s 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast held at the Miami Beach Convention Center on Jan. 21, 2019. This annual signature fundraising event and celebration brings together members of South Florida’s diverse community to commemorate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and to demonstrate community-wide support of the mentoring program. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Glover drew on that speech, rather than King’s most popular “I Have a Dream,” to conclude his comments about building community to address the challenges of the future.

“Civil rights leaders decades ago talked about saving this country, bringing and elevating the ideals for which this country was founded on and built upon,” Glover said. “But we have a greater task now. And that task is to save humanity. And in the process, save this precious, this beautiful amazing, Mother Earth.”

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