By Peter A. Sutters Jr.
Michael J. Dowling, president and chief executive officer of LIJ, described the event, now in its 35th year, as a celebration of the cultural diversity and inclusiveness among the hospital's 35,000-plus employees. The event was teleconferenced to the system's affiliate sites, which included Long Island Jewish hospital in New Hyde Park.Dowling stressed the importance of remembering King and his legacy, especially among younger generations who were not alive during the struggle for civil rights.”It's important to realize what the man stood for,” said Dowling. “He had a special view of the world that is as relevant today as it was in the Sixties.”Dowling said the event is important to the hospital because as the years go by, more and more people forget the importance of King's work.”We have to keep reminding ourselves how hard it was and how easy it is to lose,” said Dowling. “Younger generations are beneficiaries of it but don't understand the struggle.” Dowling said many of the young people he talks to lack a grasp of history and feel like the 1960s are ancient history. “It was just over 40 years ago,” said Dowling. “We want to remind people of that.” This year the event's keynote speaker was H. Carl McCall, former state comptroller, director of the New York Stock Exchange, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and state senator from Upper Manhattan, as well as former candidate for governor in 2002.Former keynote speakers have included King's son, Martin Luther King III, and Andrew Young, one of King's close friends and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. Dowling related his own struggle as an Irish immigrant who came to America at the age of 17 in 1968, just catching the end of the peak of the civil rights movement and in the middle of the Vietnam War.”I took any job I could possibly get,” said Dowling after rattling off a list of jobs he had performed in his early days that included dock worker, plumber, and construction worker. He said he still remembers his times as a laborer.Dowling began his career as a case worker in the New York City public schools after graduating from Fordham University with a master's degree in social services. He went on to work for the state of New York as commissioner of social services as well as the director of health and human services until leaving for the private sector in 1995. He became president of LIJ in 2002 after serving as executive vice president.Coming from a humble background and rising through the ranks, Dowling said he believes understanding and learning from history is extraordinarily important. It is this line of thinking that motivates him to organize the King memorial service every year. Dowling said he hopes to keep the message of King alive at the hospital as the years go by so that his words will not be lost.”I would like to keep the event going,” said Dowling. “We should do more, not less.” 'Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173