Rep. Peter Abbarno remarks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, delivered remarks on the House floor today in support of House Resolution 4603, which honors the life and legacy of  the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is a lot of pressure delivering remarks to commemorate the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the day named in his honor.  A lot of nerves, as well. This is my first time delivering any address in this chamber live.

I work, live in, and represent Centralia, Washington – a city founded in 1875 by our George Washington, an African American, who was born in the time of slavery and traveled to Washington state with his family. He was looking for a “decent place in this world.” I like to think that he found something even more than just a decent place in this world, something very special to me. That’s why this day means so much.

There are some holidays for one reason or another we hear or read debate about. Should we have it? Should it be replaced?

There is one holiday that garners no debate. A holiday that honors a man whose words and actions transcended race, religion, and gender. A man whose words and actions represented the best of what humankind should strive to become.

I have two young elementary school aged children, so my words today might be heard or read by them someday, so with that is a lot of responsibility.

My children have been telling me about what they are learning in school about Dr. King and his legacy.

I wonder what was going through Dr. King’s mind when he sat down and thought about these historic speeches, maybe made notes.  Did he think a Washington state representative from Centralia would be talking about him, his words, and action in 2023?

I guess nobody knows their impact or legacy. But I have to believe he felt his philosophy and message was important. Or he wouldn’t have done it. He wouldn’t have stood up for everything that was right.  

When I drop my children off at school I always say, be good to each other and be good to others.  And, while my children know that phrase, it is really a poor attempt to share Dr. King’s philosophy that people fear one another because they don’t know one another. To know helps shed fear. And shedding fear opens up the possibility for love and understanding.

Today, we personally and through the media have witnessed great tragedies. Tragedies that have magnified in- equality. We have come so far from the advent of the civil rights movement.  And at the same time, there is much to accomplish before we reach the day of full equality – a day when we are measured by the content of our character, that we’re measured by our heart and soul, and not the color of our skin.

What I do know, and I agree with is that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Love is a powerful emotion, a powerful word. A word in a phrase we don’t say enough of – although HR would probably prefer it that way.

I believe my responsibility as a legislator in Southwest Washington is to get to know you Mr. Speaker, to know what the people in Pierce County have in common with the people of Lewis County and find common goals, common solutions.

It is our job to bring the voices of marginalized individuals and communities throughout the state of Washington- urban and rural – to this floor – under this dome – and find solutions. Because that is what is expected to us. It’s what Dr. King wanted us to do.  

As a father, I also believe it is my responsibility to pass that philosophy to the next generation of Washingtonians. So, they too grow and mature and get to know their neighbors.

As Dr. King said: “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Mr. Speaker, good advice for all of us as we welcome our new members and members like myself – a sophomore in their first in-person legislative session.

And it wasn’t just Reverend King’s philosophy that was only impactful, it was his actions, his leadership, his example.

He did not blame. He did not pick the winners or losers. Society had already tragically done that for him. What Reverend King did is find commonality, brought people together. Dr. Kings life and legacy continues to guide us today and it continues to guide my family. 

On this Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the State of Washington, we remember that he chose to know his “enemy,” disarm them with love, and find the commonality and humanity in all of us.  

I choose to believe that we have more in common than our differences. I choose to believe that we all want to know one another better and find solutions.

After all, not only is it the right thing to do, it is what we were elected to do.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Washington State House Republican Communications