Just one day before current President of the United States of America Barack Obama was sworn into office, making history as the first African-American president in our countries existence, Americans across the nation commemorated the life of another African-American man, the historic Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
San Francisco 49ers Donald Strickland, Mark Roman, Tully Banta-Cain, and alumni Guy McIntyre, their families and front office staff along with Dr. Harry Edwards, joined in on the celebrations by participating in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley's Freedom Train, a Caltrain ride from San Jose to San Francisco to recognize the inspirational life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Strickland, Roman and Banta-Cain spent the ride walking up and down the cars handing out autographed cards with quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to help those celebrating remember just how impactful he was during the civil rights movement and how inspirational his dream still is today.
49ers safety Mark Roman discussed what the day meant to him and his family and how King paved the way for every citizen in American to dream of justice and equality for all which ultimately led to what we saw today with the inauguration of our first African-American president.
"It's just a momentous occasion because this is Martin Luther King's birthday and it's the realization of a dream for him and the rest of our nation to have an African-American president," said Roman. "It's pretty historic. It's one of those occasions where you want to save the newspapers just so you can show the kids and let them remember that they were a part of something special, because this is history. Years from now they're going to be teaching this in classrooms and I think it'd be a great thing for them to say, 'You know what? I was a part of that at that time.'"
49ers cornerback Donald Strickland expressed the same sentiments about the holiday, what it stands for and where our country is headed.
"Today marks the birthday of a man who sacrificed his life so that we have a nation that's become unified. And with tomorrow's inauguration of Barack Obama, I think it's showing amazing steps that our nation is taking towards equality, breaking down the barriers of segregation and racism. That's what the whole American dream is about."
The Freedom Train ended in San Francisco where participants then headed to the MLK Day Rally in San Francisco located at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
The players, families, and staff sat in the crowd of hundreds of people in the auditorium while Glide Memorial United Methodist Church's choir sang songs of praise and joy, and the Reverend Cecil Williams spoke to the vibrant crowd discussing the then president-elect Obama and how his election was paved by the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Following William's speech was a video dedication of King's "I Have a Dream" speech which ended with images of the new presidential family.
An iconic figure in the Bay Area, Dr. Harry Edwards, who participated in the days events with the 49ers was moved by day and mentioned how he never thought he'd see an African-American elected to President in his lifetime and the impact it has on our youth.
"I didn't think that I would live to see it. I thought that it would eventually come because I had that much faith in America and the American people, but I didn't think that it would come this quickly, but I'm glad that it happened. I think that once we open that door it is possible then to task tremendous capacities and competences; develop competencies of women, and once we have done that then I think we begin to do what is necessary in society. "
Edwards continued by saying, "When a kid looks up and sees an African-American president, when a girl looks up and sees a woman Secretary of State, it has the same kind of impact as when a kid looks up and sees Tony Dungy hoist the Lombardi Trophy, or a Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. It comes to his mind, 'Hey, I can do that.'"