Martin Luther King Jr.'s principle theme was love, but not the kind of love people often express, a pastor said during a celebration in Tiffin Monday.
The Rev. Larry Whatley, pastor at Turning Point United Methodist Church in Bowling Green and a part-time weathercaster at WUPW Fox Toledo, delivered the keynote address at Monday evening's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Ebenezer United Methodist Church.
He questioned how people could make the world a better place.
"Try your best to love those who may not want to love you back. That's what he did. ... Practice a life of sacrificial unselfishness. That's what he did," he said.
Whatley said it takes more energy and emotional stress to hate than it does to love.
"Realize that we are all of the same race, the human race, and that we must walk together. We cannot walk alone. ... If you help someone in trouble or in need, eventually God will see to it that it will come back around to you in your favor," he said.
Whatley said he was in high school when he heard the news of King's assassination.
"That was 40 years ago, but it's something that never leaves you. It was a very traumatic event," he said.
The theme of Monday's celebration was "Love is the Answer/Peace is the Plan."
People who have volunteered on the Spivy Manley house restoration project were honored, and Linda Anderson, a lifelong resident of Fostoria, received the Peacemaker Award. Joni Pinskey, Anderson's sister and co-chairwoman of the event's planning committee, presented the award.
"She provides support to students without grandparents and mentors young girls," Pinskey said.
Winners of the annual essay contest also were honored and read their essays.
Fostoria Mayor John Davoli said the essay contest addressed what King would think of the world today. He said when Fostoria citizens have problems, the community comes together and puts aside the color of skin. He said he is proud of his hometown.
"We're a very diverse community," he said.
Winners of the essay contest were Travis Jeffery, a first-grader at Riley Elementary School; Camilo Castillo, a second-grader at Riley; Rubiahanna Dessausure, a third-grader at Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School; Mallory Rife, a fourth-grader at Krout Elementary School; Collin Rice, a fifth-grader at Fostoria Intermediate; and Isaiah Cassidy, a sixth-grader at St. Wendelin Elementary School.
"If Martin Luther King Jr. would visit our world, he would be happy," Castillo said.
Rice said he thought King would not like all of the fighting in the world and the Internet because of the information people put on it.
Rife said she thought King would be happy about some things.
"You can sit wherever on the bus," she said.
People attending the celebration observed a moment of silence for David Shevin, a founding member of the Tiffin/Seneca Martin Luther Committee, who died last year.
"We thank you, David," Pinskey said.