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America like a salad bowl, Haley says

All represented by the different ingredients

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William Alexander Haley said people always ask about his favorite part of "Roots." While many parts of his father's book stand out, the opening scene holds special value this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

In the beginning of Alex Haley's "Roots," Kunta's father holds him up to God and praises Kunta as a wonderful creation.

If we teach that kind of love to our children and embody that in ourselves, William Haley said, "We live out the dream of Dr. King and my father."

William Haley was the keynote speaker Friday at the 2002 Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon organized by the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission. At the event, William Haley spoke of his father's and King's philosophy of nonviolence.

The philosophy encompasses the commission's vision of "unity through diversity," chairwoman Phyllis Caruth said. "(King) really wasn't just about African-Americans, he was about all people."

All people, William Haley remembered his father saying, are characterized as a being a "melting pot" in America. But the Haleys didn't believe that was true. William told his father America is more like a salad bowl.

"All are represented by the different ingredients," William Haley said. We should be proud of our heritage, he said, a sentiment his father shared. After writing "Roots," one of Alex Haley's favorite things was to hear where others came from, William Haley said.

Ayshia Groll, a third-grader at Orchard Elementary, read her essay "What America Means To Me" to Friday's audience. The essay told of her family history and their journeys to America. Documenting family history is something William Haley is trying to promote through his public speeches and writings, continuing his father's legacy.

"I got his autograph," Groll said of William Haley.

Also at the event, the commission honored American Express, Glendale Middle School, the LDS Family History Department, Wasatch Homeless Health Care and Your Community Connection with Drum Major awards for their efforts in promoting peace and diversity awareness.

The Drum Major award is named for King's Feb. 4, 1968, sermon, "The Drum Major Instinct." In it King said, "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness."


E-mail: ckennington@desnews.com