As a nationwide dialogue about diversity and inclusion continues to unfold, the State of Georgia sent a powerful message by honoring the legacy of one of its most famous icons. This week, government officials unveiled a new statue at the Georgia State Capitol in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Coca-Cola Company, which took a leadership position in support of Dr. King during the civil rights era, helped sponsor the statue.
Coca-Cola has a long history of standing for optimism, diversity and inclusion – and against hate and intolerance. Deep in the company’s heritage is a commitment to bringing people and communities together to find common ground. That commitment is shared across the company’s operations in more than 200 countries around the world, starting with its hometown of Atlanta.
“This new statue is a fitting tribute to the influence and impact Dr. King had on our city and state, and offers a positive message of inclusion for all Georgians,” said Matt Echols, Senior Vice President, Coca-Cola North America Public Affairs and Communications. “As a proud Georgia company and a supporter of diversity, inclusion and equality, we are pleased that we could join with the Governor and the Mayor to help ensure the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.”
The statue project initiated in April 2014 when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law HB 1080, legislation authorizing the placement of a statue honoring Dr. King at the State Capitol. The project was led by the Georgia Capitol Arts Standards Commission (CASC), which undertook the statue’s design and fundraising efforts, and was overseen by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The Coca-Cola Company, as well as the Atlanta and Georgia Apartment Associations and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council provided financial sponsorship of this eight-foot-tall bronze statue, which now stands overlooking the south side of the capitol.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by members of the King family; Gov. Deal; First Lady Sandra Deal; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston; Georgia State Rep. Calvin Smyre; members of CASC; and other dignitaries and citizens.
Beatriz Perez, Senior Vice President, Chief Public Affairs and Communications & Sustainability Officer; Helen Price, Vice President, Global Community Affairs; and Lori George Billingsley, Vice President, Community Relations, also represented Coca-Cola at the unveiling.
“Coca-Cola’s dedication to issues of diversity, inclusion, and equality extends beyond sponsorships,” said Billingsley. “We regularly engage in conversation with our people through employee groups, internal town hall meetings, employee business resource groups and other communications to ensure it is clear what we stand for as an employer and a citizen of local communities everywhere. Today, we are living our values as a company, and we are honored to help bring this memorial to life.”