By Maria Saporta
In August, it will be the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
And it is at the “50-year mark” when a major moment in history moves from being a memoriam to part of a legacy that can be connected to contemporary issues, according to Doug Shipman, president and CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
If that’s the case, the Center’s timing is just about perfect. Construction on the Center, which will be located on the same block as the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, began on March 4.
Several new gifts have just been announced — completing the Center’s $76 million fundraising efforts for its first phase.
For Atlanta, “we can move from simply talking about what was to what it means today,” Shipman told members of the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Monday. Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who chairs the Center’s board, attended the lunch.
Shipman said Atlanta also can showcase its special place in the conversation of civil and human rights.
“The business community always ended up on the right side of history,” Shipman said. “In Atlanta, we are not afraid of embracing the future.”
Shipman said the vision of the Center is to serve as a “convening place” to continue the modern day conversation of civil and human rights — to not only put them in an historical context but to make them relevant with what is going on in the world today.
The Center will open in May, 2014, and Shipman urged Atlanta business leaders to consider ways they and their companies can engage with the Center.
“We work best as a community when the civic community and the business community work together,” Shipman said. “We see our work as ongoing. This is forward-looking. This is going to be vibrant. This is going to be alive.”
Shipman was asked whether the Center would be taking a point of view on various conflicts around the world and whether it was going to become a place where protests would be held in Atlanta.
“We will never advocate for a certain outcome,” Shipman said. “We think there is a missing spot for civil discussion on tough issues.”
But Shipman went on to say that the one legacy that was paramount to the Center’s core was a belief in non-violence and the ability to resolve conflict through peaceful means.