Nassau County’s 31st Martin Luther King Jr. celebration luncheon Monday brought words of inspiration, hope, caution and concern to the more than 300 participants at the Marriott Hotel in Uniondale.

“Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of . . . a man of faith and compassion who challenged Americans to honor the fundamental principles of our . . . constitution — that all people are created equal,” said County Executive Edward Mangano.

He had a dream . . . but it required people to stand up against evil. So today . . . let us ask ourselves in his words: ‘What are you doing for others?’

“As I look around this room, I can see many of you are making a difference in the community by assisting others.”

County Comptroller George Maragos cautioned that “... Our educational system is failing our minority children, and it is not adequately preparing them to achieve their potential. I urge us to rededicate ourselves to fully realize Dr. King’s dream by improving the public education in our inner city and minority school districts.”

Wilma Tootle, a retired Uniondale schools administrator and chair of the MLK Jr. luncheon committee’s youth education program, announced the four winners of its essay contest that awards a small scholarship. She noted that students from only 11 school districts responded this year to the request for essay entries.

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“We sent the request for essay entries to every school district in the county,” she said. There ae 56 districts in Nassau County.

There were four general award recipients: Retha Fernandez, a longtime Freeport resident now living in Babylon and the owner of Soul of Long Island; Bishop Lionel Harvey, pastor of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury; Thomas C. Krumpter, Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner; Dr. Chuck Madu, of Freeport, owner of a medical supply and drug store.

Melvin Harris Jr., a community leader in Uniondale and Hempstead and former Nassau County Human Rights commissioner was honored posthumously for community service.

There were also three Presidential awards: Donald Monti, Huntington Station downtown developer; the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury and Bethpage Federal Credit Union.