HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission celebrated in person at the state Capitol in Hartford.

Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, marks the 37th anniversary of the federal holiday in honor of the civil rights icon’s birthday. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The commission’s goal is to ensure King’s birthday is meaningful and reflective of the spirit with which he lived and the struggles for which he died.

“We the people, we must move together with the action of change,” said JadeRose Robinson-Brandon as she read the poem, The Action of Change, at Monday’s ceremony at the state Capitol.

“He asked us to be the best, most passionate versions of ourselves,” Treasurer Erick Russell (D-Conn.) said.

At this year’s celebration, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz remembered State Rep. Quentin Williams (D-Middletown), who was killed in a wrong-way crash. She recalled how the state representative fought for equality and died at 39, the same as King.

“Dr. King and Representative Williams show that you can live a short but monumentally impactful life,” Bysiewicz said.

At 15, King spent several summers in Connecticut picking tobacco. Event organizers said King found his calling while singing in a church choir in Simsbury, Connecticut.

“Dr. King wrote that his call to the ministry “came about in the summer of 1944 when he felt an inescapable urge to serve society,” Lori Stewart, the vice chair of the Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had the honor of ringing the Liberty Bell. Around the nation, the clanging of the bell marks freedom and equality.

As the keynote speaker, Blumenthal acknowledged this is not a day off but rather a day on for social justice.

This year, the commission honors King’s enduring legacy by promoting love of community. In King’s words, “unconditional love will have the final word.”