Gantt honoree: Nurturing youth will advance dream

“One vision, one voice for many” was the theme of the 43rd annual MLK Ecumenical Service on Sunday at Morris Street Baptist Church in Charleston, where the congregation joined hands to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

Nurturing tomorrow’s leaders “who have not yet met themselves” is the best way to fully realize the extent of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, according to Former U.S. Ambassador James Gadsden.

Gadsden was the keynote speaker and the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award recipient Sunday afternoon at the 43rd annual MLK Ecumenical Service, which took place at Morris Street Baptist Church. He said being honored meant so much to him after spending his younger years at the church.

He was emotional as he described getting help from the congregation more than 50 years ago.

“The church started me on a very long journey,” he said, adding that he hoped it would continue.

Gadsden, a Charleston native, was an ambassador to Iceland and also served in Budapest and Paris. He is senior counselor for economic affairs at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., introduced Gadsden, saying that he was more proud to present the award than he was to previously receive it. Gadsden was a student in Clyburn’s history class at Charles A. Brown High School in the 1960s. Gadsden went on to graduate from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and earned advanced degrees from Stanford University and Princeton University.

“Dr. King told us on one occasion, ‘Anybody can be great because anybody can serve,’ and I don’t know if I know anyone who personifies that as much as James Gadsden,” Clyburn said.

Gadsden shared anecdotes about his professional life, focusing on presenting a plan to nurture youth of color and all youth from under-served communities.

“They need opportunities, they need encouragement,” he said. “Diversity is our strength.”

He said diversity is more and more prevalent in entry- and mid-level jobs, but that there needed to be more of a presence toward “the top.” He also said people should start thinking globally.

Gadsden said that today’s youth also needed more role models, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or religion.

“This is how we move into recognizing Dr. King’s dream for America,” he said.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at