Former Mayor Ivy Taylor stepped back into the public eye Monday to accept the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Achievement Award after participating in the city’s 50th anniversary march.

“I’m just so grateful that the Lord gave me the opportunity to serve my adopted hometown through the City Council for eight years,” Taylor said from the stage at Pittman-Sullivan Park. “It was a tremendous privilege.”

Every year, the City of San Antonio’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commission recognizes one Bexar County resident whose achievements in the community reflect lasting commitments to equal education opportunity, human rights, and economic well-being. Taylor, who is the first black woman mayor of a city with more than 1 million people, received a standing ovation at Monday’s announcement.

During her acceptance remarks, Taylor thanked her family and the Eastside community. But off stage, she lamented that the power and meaning behind Martin Luther King Jr.’s work has diminished over the years.

“I feel like MLK’s legacy has been kind of watered down and that most folks actually don’t take the time to really know what an amazing intellectual he was, how strong, brave, and young he was,” Taylor told the Rivard Report. “The ugly language that we’re hearing from people who are our leaders is certainly disheartening, and I think we need to look to examples like MLK who focused on loving the Christian principle and doctrine of loving your neighbor and your enemies.”

People who make concerted efforts to understand opposite perspectives truly seek to embody King’s legacy, Taylor said.

“I just think we all need to be more thoughtful, to read, and to educate ourselves,” Taylor said. “Try to understand the other side so that we can work toward solutions.”

Taylor also noted positive changes she’s seen in San Antonio since she first took public office as District 2 Councilwoman in 2009, commending housing development in neighborhoods across the Eastside, not just in Dignowity Hill.

To further King’s mission in San Antonio, she said, leaders must continue to push for equal educational options for everyone, improve job training, and invest in neighborhoods that have been left behind so more mixed-income communities can flourish.

“Let’s continue working to make the dream a reality,” Taylor said.

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.