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Mills is first governor to attend Portland MLK event in 8 years

Gov. Janet Mills is reviving a tradition that former Gov. Paul LePage set aside during his two terms.

PORTLAND, Maine — Mainers spent Monday celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, including at the 38th annual NAACP event which had a special guest this year; Maine's Governor Janet Mills.

She is reviving a tradition that former governor Paul LePage set aside during his two terms. While LePage was in office, he did not attend the event, instead he took part in several MLK Day celebrations in Waterville where he was formally the mayor.

Portland's Holiday Inn by the Bay was jam-packed, organizers say 680 people were expected to be in attendance. 

"We all come together with the same goal, to make sure that we are doing our best to make sure everyone is taken care of and that everyone feels like apart of the community." Walter Phillips said. 

That sense of community flooded the rooms, rooms that were full of people from all walks of life with a deep admiration for Dr. King.

"I'm proud," six-year-old Demetrius Brown Phillips said. "He let black people and white people go to the same school."

Phillips great-grandmother and one of Maine's leading civil rights advocates, Anita Talbot, was also there. She was happy to be at the event and proud to see her grandson speak in front of the crowd.

"It was very important to Dr. King that we all came together and got along," Talbot said, looking down at her grandson Demetrius. "And so this young man is apart of that."

They were pleased to see Governor Mills at the event. Mills felt it was very important to be there and to kickstart the tradition again. Speaking about Dr. King's visit to Bowdoin college in 1964 during her speech.

"Dr. King said, if your conscious stops at the border of Maine you are less of a person than you should be," Mills said. "You are as responsible for what happens in Alabama as you are Brunswick, Maine."

Organizers say her presence not only meant the world to them, but to the generations of the future. Saying that sense of togetherness is what will make all the difference in the years to come.

"She came in and spoke with the kids  earlier today and she didn't have to," Phillips said. "She did it out of the pure want to be in the community and to make sure they knew they had a voice in the community, which is great."

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