By Jonathan Scholles
The Budget Sports Editor

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. always preached unity and oneness amongst all races and all people.

The Classic in the Country – a high school girls’ basketball event centered around the Dr. King holiday weekend – preaches those same values.

“I saw nothing but love, hospitality, interaction, good sportsmanship, and a lot of good humanitarianism,” said Marvin Blanks, a Martin Luther King Jr. reenactor hired to perform the famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the seventh installment of Classic in the Country Challenge, held last weekend at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center at Berlin.

Blanks, who travels around the country to deliver the 18-minute “I Have a Dream” speech, said the event was “unbelievably wonderful.”

“It had so much spirit. It had so much diversity. It had such a widerange of music and a good, ethnic mix. It was a very colorful, wonderful event,” said Blanks who is coined as the “Orator of the Century.”

“I was honored to be a part of it.”

Potter’s House coach Tony Bannister said Blanks’ Dr. King speech was spot-on.

“That was powerful. I was real young when that original speech took place and to hear and see that really blew me away,” Bannister said. “If you close your eyes, you really think Dr. King is there doing it. The atmosphere, and for our kids to hear that and experience that, was a blessing.”

Blanks said the feedback he’s received from his Classic speech has been sensational.

“When I walked off, the first person I saw was [CitC director] Tom Jenkins. And he was all choked up with tears in his eyes,” the reenactor said. “It took him back to a place where goosebumps and chills were real common. Everybody that could, expressed a great deal of gratitude.”

The color of the crowd doesn’t matter, Blanks said, adding the “I Have a Dream” speech is magical.

“The speech itself has such a powerful message that the color of the crowd doesn’t even matter… the age doesn’t even matter,” the 53 year-old Blanks said. “But the epitome of diversity was in the Classic in the Country gym.”

Furthermore, Blanks said, the CitC environment lent itself very well to a live reading of Dr. King’s famous speech.

“The amount of people there, and the sports environment in itself, created an environment that had overwhelming spirit,” said Blanks, who lives in Covert, Mich. “To be at a competitive event, and to break it up with something like that, was an extremely brilliant idea. It was an excellent environment for such a speech.”

Efforts to honor Dr. King, as well as the legacy of former Hiland coach Perry Reese Jr., are embedded into the CitC seamlessly, Blanks said. It was that which made Blanks so eager to jump on board.

So eager that he reduced his costs by over 50 percent, making it possible for the CitC to afford his services.

“After I did some research on Perry Reese and what he did for the community, I was compelled to be a part of this,” the Orator said. “I wanted to negotiate something, because I wanted to be there… I think the King legacy, along with Perry Reese is a great story, and it sends a great message. That made it worth it all for me.”

Blanks said the event was very well run.

“It was so well organized, so well polished. It was a ‘classic’ in the country for sure,” he said.

Blanks went directly from the Classic to a school district in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he presented his speech to about 4,000 students and faculty.