Judge speaks at 39th Annual MLK Memorial Breakfast


Courtesy of the Maryland Judiciary

The Hon. Elizabeth S. Morris says she was happy to accept the role of keynote speaker at the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

Christian Richey, Editor-in-Chief

The keynote speaker for the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast said on Jan. 20 the civil rights leader’s actions and advocacy inspired her to “always do what is right.”

King’s famous quote, “The time is always right to do what is right,” was the theme of the breakfast at Live! Casino & Hotel, which AACC co-sponsored.

“Every day I’m faced with people who have problems and [are] looking for me to make the right decision,” the breakfast speaker, Associate Judge Elizabeth S. Morris, said in a Campus Current interview before the event. “To make the right decision I have to follow the law. So as a jurist [King’s quote] definitely means a lot to me.”

In October 2018, Morris became the first African American woman to serve as an associate judge of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, 5th Judicial Circuit.

Morris’ speech detailed how King’s quote has influenced her life and career, starting from her childhood.

Morris said when she was a child in ballet class a teacher remarked about the darkness of her skin, making her feel ashamed.

“I remember feeling ashamed; I remember being silent,” Morris said. “It was a period of time where you wouldn’t be able to see me without having my ballet slippers on and eventually her attitude led me to leave dance.”

Morris said King’s words may make people consider how to handle racially insensitive situations.

Morris said when “people make either racially insensitive comments, or where there [is unconscious] bias or lack of diversity, how do you address the situation, and at that time what is the right thing to do?”

Morris also said King’s sentiment influences her parenting.

“I have an 11-year-old girl who was about the same age as me when I had that incident occur to me in that ballet class,” Morris said. “With her, she’s now facing situations where she’s becoming more aware of the differences in the world … so personally, as a mother, that theme really means a lot to me because of some of these frank conversations that I’ve been having with her.”

Morris said King’s fight for civil rights paved the way for her success.

Morris said King had “given [her] the opportunity to become a judge, a lawyer [and] to go to college.”

When she heard she would be speaking at the breakfast, Morris said she felt excited and nervous.

“I’ve attended past Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfasts and I know that the keynote speakers are always phenomenal,” Morris said. “There’s certainly a high bar, and I definitely want to make sure that my speech is impactful and memorable.”