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Congressman Hank Johnson and
Businessman Hank Thomas 
 Congressman Hank Johnson and
 Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown

At first glance, you may think that a 62-year-old Congressman, a 75-year-old businessman and a group of high school students may not have much in common. But after a closer look, you can see that they are all connected by one thing, a dream to do something better.

Instead of focusing on strictly the past, Congressman Hank Johnson’s Black History Program at Newton High School on February 16 in Covington took a different approach—encouraging students to make a better future for themselves, today. The Congressman encouraged dozens of students in attendance to believe in what they want to attain and create something that they can look back on and be proud of. 

“If you have a dream, don’t let anyone discourage you from seeing it through and making it happen,” said Johnson. “With your current actions, you create your own history. What you do right now, is what you look back on as your history to make yourself better, your family better and community a better place to be.”

This year, the Congressman’s guest speakers were original Freedom Rider and businessman Hank Thomas, and Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown. Thomas shared stories of voter discrimination and other troubles he faced, simply because of the color of his skin. 

“While I was commanded to fight for the rights of Vietnamese to be free from tyranny, black people throughout the South were not free from racism,” said Thomas, a Purple Heart recipient who is also a McDonald’s and hotel franchisee. “At one time in my life, all I had was $68, a briefcase, and a dream, but I made it happen. A few years ago, a Senator from Chicago had a few supporters and a dream to become the first black President. He made it happen. What is your dream?”

Newton County’s first African American Sheriff, Ezell Brown, echoed Thomas’ importance of believing in your dreams and seeing them through. Brown also stressed the importance of picking your friends wisely. Brown himself, shared a story where his own friend tried to set him up to be arrested by police, telling officers a teenage Brown had a car full of drugs at a local fair.

“You see I had a dream too. There were many people that said this couldn’t be done. I remained strong in my faith and abilities. I knew I could give this county the fair justice it deserved,” said Brown. “You need to learn this now, be careful who you make your friends. They may dress like you, talk like you and look like you, but they may not have the best things in line for you.”

The event ended with Congressman Johnson presenting Thomas and Brown with Congressional honors and thanking Newton High School Principal John Ellenberg for welcoming the three speakers into his school. The Congressman also stopped at the end of the program to talk to members of the high school’s football team about their college plans and aspirations for their future.