SARATOGA SPRINGS — On the occasion of the country's 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you may choose to look to the White House, where an African-American is president, for evidence that Dr. King's hopes of racial equality are making headway.
Or you could look to Auburn, Ala., where an African-American quarterback just led a university to the national football championship that was yet a year away from admitting its first black student when King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.
Then again, you could look no further than this bedroom community of 18,000 on the shores of Utah Lake.
Mia Love, the mayor, is the first black female mayor in Utah history.
After serving six years on the Saratoga Springs City Council, she was elected mayor in November of 2009 with a decisive 59 percent of the vote.
This, in a county that is 0.5 percent black.
Talk about living Dr. King's dream:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Her story is as American as the Pilgrims' saga. Mia's parents, Jean Maxine and Mary, came to New York from their native Haiti in the 1970s, fleeing poverty and seeking employment that would improve the quality of life for their small family.
This was no small sacrifice. Their visas did not allow them to bring anyone other than themselves. They had to leave their young children, a boy named Jean and a girl named Cynthia, behind.
There was an immigration law in place, however, that would grant the entire family citizenship if Jean Maxine and Mary had a baby in America.
But there was a deadline.
The law was set to expire on Jan. 1, 1976.
On Dec. 6, 1975, with 25 days to spare, Mia was born in a Brooklyn hospital.
In no time, her older brother and sister were sent for in Haiti and the family was re-united.
Says Mia: "My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family's ticket to America."
Barely a decade removed from the civil rights battles that King led in the 1960s, the family settled into its adopted — and increasingly liberated — homeland. They put down roots in Connecticut.
They did not take for granted the benefits and opportunities of America.
Mia's father found work with the food companies Nabisco and Pepperidge Farms, her mother got a job as a nurse. All three kids graduated from college — Jean from Sacred Hearts University, Cynthia from Central Connecticut State and Mia from the University of Hartford — and all three found steady work. Jean is employed by a copy company back home in Connecticut, Cynthia moved to Utah and lives in Centerville, where she works for an auto dealership, and Mia, she works for the citizens of Saratoga Springs.
The future mayor found her way to Utah 12 years ago when she was a flight attendant with Continental Airlines. She figured she'd stay six months. But she met a guy named Jason Love, a Utah native, who she tried to set up with her roommate.
"I thought he'd really like her," she says.
It turned out he liked her more.
They were married 12 years ago. More than anyone, Mia credits Jason with her political success. "I could not do this job without my partner, financial contributor and best friend," she says.
They have three children, Alessa, 10, Abigail, 8, and the quarterback of the family, 3-year-old Peyton.
Part of the reason she ran for public office, says Mia, was to be an example of service to her children like her parents were for her.
"I want my children to see that here we are, in a primarily Caucasian city and state, neither bound nor privileged by skin color."
The other part of the reason: "I'm a conservative black American who loves this country. I want to help us hold on to what we have — to preserve our rights and our freedoms."
On his day, could Dr. King ask for anything more?
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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