Former Secretary of Defense, U.S. Rep. and U.S. Sen. William Cohen of Maine will be the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast Celebration on Monday at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.
Organized by the NAACP Portland Branch, the 33rd annual breakfast honors the slain civil rights leader and African-American icon, who was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.
The event also will recognize the 50th anniversaries of the Portland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, of King’s only visit to Maine in May 1964, of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and of King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 14, 1964.
A graduate of Bowdoin College and Boston University School of Law, Cohen served as defense secretary from 1997 through 2000 under President Bill Clinton. Before that, Cohen represented Maine in Congress for 24 years, in the House from 1973 to 1978 and in the Senate from 1979 to 1996.
Cohen now lives near Washington, D.C., where he is chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, a business consulting and lobbying firm. He is a board member of CBS Corp. and is married to Janet Langhart, an African-American author and TV personality who wrote a memoir, “Love in Black and White,” with her husband.
During the breakfast celebration, the NAACP will pay tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who died last month, and give a local leadership award to the person or institution that has answered King’s call to build “the beloved community.”
The breakfast celebration runs from 8 to 11 a.m. and is co-sponsored by the city of Portland, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, Homeless Voices for Justice/Preble Street, The Opportunity Alliance, Portland Public Schools, University of New England and several community-based organizations.
This story will be updated.