HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love says she didn't grow up feeling racial discrimination.
"I never questioned my rights," said Love, who was recently elected as Utah's first black female mayor. "I've never been beat down. I've never been hosed down. I've never been confronted by snarling dogs. I've never had a burning cross in my yard.
"That is because of the people who have worked hard for us," she said.
Principal among them is Martin Luther King Jr., who would have celebrated his 81st birthday Friday. King was assassinated April 4, 1968.
Seven years later, when Love was born, she opened her eyes to a different world from what blacks in the United States dealt with while King was alive, she said.
Love, who was invited Thursday to speak at Hill Air Force Base's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, credits King's dream of racial equality with helping generations of blacks to have a brighter future.
"He believed that right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil," she said. "He believed that amid the whining bullets, there is still a hope for a brighter tomorrow."
Love says she lives in that tomorrow.
Love's parents are Haitian immigrants who had just $10 when they arrived in New York City. They became U.S. citizens after Love was born. She grew up in New York and, once the family moved to Connecticut, her parents brought her siblings, who had been left in Haiti, to the United States.
Pursuing the American Dream, her parents worked to rent and then eventually buy their own home.
And there were lessons.
When Love was in school, her father told her to work hard because he had worked hard.
"You will not be a burden to society," he told her. "You will work hard and you will serve others."
It's because of others' hard work that Love says she can open her eyes to a different world from King's.
"I'm proud and honored to be a member of this country — a citizen of this country," she said. "I'm proud to be a daughter of immigrant parents."
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