Sen. Buckner-Webb delivers moving speech at Human Rights Banquet

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  • LOREN BENOIT/Press Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, who represents Boise in the Idaho Legislature, gives her keynote address at the 22nd annual Human Rights Banquet Friday at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn. Buckner-Webb, a fifth-generation Idahoan, is the first African-American to be elected to the Idaho Senate.

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    From left, Coeur d’Alene Police Department Capt. David Hagar, Detective Jake Rogers, and Chief Lee White and the police department were this year’s recipients of the KCTFHR Civil Rights Award for their work in handling a hate crime that happened at the McDonald’s on Hanley Avenue in July of last year. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Reverend Happy Wilkins speaks an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech at Friday’s Human Rights Banquet at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Brian and Jennifer O’Callahan sign their names for a Coeur d’Alene Resort auction item at Friday’s Human Rights Banquet at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • LOREN BENOIT/Press Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, who represents Boise in the Idaho Legislature, gives her keynote address at the 22nd annual Human Rights Banquet Friday at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn. Buckner-Webb, a fifth-generation Idahoan, is the first African-American to be elected to the Idaho Senate.

  • 1

    From left, Coeur d’Alene Police Department Capt. David Hagar, Detective Jake Rogers, and Chief Lee White and the police department were this year’s recipients of the KCTFHR Civil Rights Award for their work in handling a hate crime that happened at the McDonald’s on Hanley Avenue in July of last year. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 2

    Reverend Happy Wilkins speaks an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech at Friday’s Human Rights Banquet at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 3

    Brian and Jennifer O’Callahan sign their names for a Coeur d’Alene Resort auction item at Friday’s Human Rights Banquet at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

By DEVIN WEEKS

Staff Writer

COEUR d’ALENE — Idaho state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb remembers hearing the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time when she was in the first grade.

“Just hearing the words, I knew it was good stuff. I felt like I was somebody special to be standing there with my hand over my heart hearing the words, ‘With liberty and justice for all.’”

It was empowering for a 6-year-old, but she admitted, she has at times felt disappointed with the United States, “the way we take great pride in declaring ourselves to be a beacon of fairness and equity.”

“The theory and the concept’s powerful, but sometimes, we fail,” she said. “Sometimes we fail.”

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Say amen,” she said, the “amen” echoing back from the crowd.

“But do we see it, do we share it on the regular? Do we?” she asked, several voices answering “No.”

“What’s going to change that? We are. We are accountable. We are responsible,” she said. “You are responsible.”

The words of Buckner-Webb’s keynote speech Friday evening were in line with the theme of the evening, “With Liberty and Justice For All,” as more than 300 people gathered in a bay of the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn to celebrate the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations’ 22nd annual Human Rights Banquet.

“It’s clear that, in reality, liberty nor justice is available to all citizens,” she said. “If we are not vigilant, purposeful, the access to justice will become more and more tenuous for the greater numbers of our population. Sometimes I fear that we are going backward, but we must not allow that.”

She said some may be feeling good, comfortable and that “we’ve got it handled,” but “we don’t have it handled. We still have much work to do.”

“It is my sincere hope that we will renew our commitment to honor our responsibility to one another, to our communities and to those most vulnerable and least able to advocate for themselves,” she said. “We have the power and responsibility to interrupt injustice wherever it exists.”

Punctuated with a touch of humor and soulful song, Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, received several rounds of applause and a standing ovation at the close of her speech. She urged the attendees to “say yes” to standing up for human rights, to be accountable and to hold each other accountable, to seek justice and condemn acts of violence.

She quoted poet Frederick Buechner: “Pay mind to your own life, your own health and wholeness. A bleeding heart is of no help to anyone if it bleeds to death.”

The evening also included several awards and scholarships distributed to those in the community who continue to fight for human and civil rights, as well as a powerful delivery of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words from Rev. Happy Watkins.

“First of all, the fact that (Buckner-Webb) is the first African-American female in the Senate, and she would come to our banquet and speak, we’re just thrilled that she’s willing to do that for us,” said KCTFHR President Christie Wood. “And tonight, we’re giving our civil rights award to the police department, and I am so excited about that. When we can recognize organizations for getting it right and doing the right thing when it comes to hate crimes, if you look across the nation you don’t always see that.”

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