On the day before Thanksgiving, more than 400 Alexandrians from all walks of life were urged not to give thanks, but to demonstrate their thanks.
I would challenge each of you to being a blessing this Thanksgiving, said Will A. Gunn, general counsel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
As the keynote speaker for Mayor Bill Euilles sixth annual Unity Breakfast, Gunn cited President Abraham Lincolns November 26, 1863 proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as national holiday. That event followed by one week Lincolns famous Gettysburg Address calling for a rededication to national unity, he added.
In the midst of a great civil war, Lincoln revealed what he perceived as a great opportunity. He emphasized all the blessings we should be thankful for, Gunn told the crowd gathered in the ballroom of the Mark Center Hilton.
Accentuating the theme of the breakfast, Diversity In Action, was a wide array of ethnic music entertainment from the T.C. Williams Music Department, African Heritage Dancers and Drummers, Generations of Fire and The Boyle School of Irish Dance. Immediately preceding Gunns address, Beatrice Thomson, a junior at T.C. Williams High School, delivered an original poem focused on the need for diversity and highlighting humanitys similarities.
Gunn noted that throughout the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln emphasized two words: D edication and devotion. He then asked the crowd, What is it that you are going to be dedicated and devoted to?
Assigning a meaning to each of the letters forming the word blessing, Gunn said, The greatest way to give thanks is to demonstrate our thanks.
As is the case with each Unity Breakfast, a charge is presented to the mayor in line with that years theme. This years charge was presented by Rose Dawson, director of libraries for the city.
Pointing out that she was the first African American to fill that post since the integration of Alexandrias libraries in 1969, Dawson called for the need to ensure continued diversity. Diversity is not only about our differences, she said. Its about our similarities.
Following her remarks, Euille came to the podium to accept the charge and deliver his remarks. I do indeed accept this charge, he said. I believe in teamwork and thats how we are going to get this done.
What are you going to do to make a difference? This isnt about me. Its about us. We are a family one Alexandria, Euille told the audience.
Serving as mistress of Ceremonies was ABC 7 News anchor and Alexandria resident Alison Starling. The invocation and benediction were presented by Reverend Duane Kay, a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Angela Pryor of the Breakfast Program Committee welcomed the overflow crowd, followed by the presentation of the colors by the T.C.Williams High School Color Guard.