To Clergy Association President Fred Turpin's knowledge, Ridgefield's 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration marked the first time in history that all denominations and religious organizations in town came together in unanimity to support a cause: peace and nonviolence.
The message came in the form of a a pledge, taken by about 75 people in attendance at Town Hall, that emphasized the importance of respect and civility in the shadow of the recent .
"I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures. I value people with different ideas. And I value and cherish the democratic process and understand the importance of mutual respect in civic meetings and wherever citizens engage each other."
The theme of the ceremony was about finding hope and responsibility after that breakdown of civil discussion and working toward a more respectful future.
"If we want change," said First Selectman Rudy Marconi, "... then we -- yes, you and me -- we must begin to work together to change the world we live in."
On that note, young children from Enchanted Garden led the room in a chorus of "This Little Light of Mine," urging everyone to "let it shine."
Judy Hirt-Manheimer of Enchanted Garden helped them along.
"After hearing the news about Arizona," Hirt-Manheimer said, "I felt it would be important to give the ceremony a lift and a feeling of hope."
Students from A Better Chance of Ridgefield also spoke up, reciting excerpts of speeches and quotes from the Rev. King.
As per tradition, Marconi and Mark Robinson, Connecticut's Martin Luther King Holiday Commissioner, presented the "Spirit of Dr. King" Ridgefield Community Service Award, this time to Valerie Jensen of SPHERE, Special People Housing Education Recreation Employment.
Jensen's father, Don Ciota and her sister, Rebecca, accepted the award on her behalf -- Ciota echoed Rabbi Jon Haddon's sentiments of, "What can one person do?"
"Just look around in your own area and say, 'What can I do for someone else?'" Ciota said. "Take an interest in your community and in someone else -- we truly appreciate the support of the community for this group."
Robinson spoke more about King, showing a video from Simsbury High School about King's time in Connecticut and how it formed who he was as a man and an activist -- Robinson called it "a privilege worth carrying."