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More than 100 gather to honor Robert Pleasant

More than 100 people – coworkers, church choirs, youth groups, city politicians, students, neighbors, friends and family – paid tribute to the 32-year-old Operation: Be Proud president whose vision has strengthened city race relations and has given children hope for the future.

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

More than 100 people – coworkers, church choirs, youth groups, city politicians, students, neighbors, friends and family – paid tribute to the 32-year-old Operation: Be Proud president whose vision has strengthened city race relations and has given children hope for the future.

"As you can see from the turnout today, Robert, you’ve touched a lot of people in this community," said Jason Cain, the master of ceremonies who introduced himself as one of those influenced by Pleasant.

"In 1991, you got up one day and decided to put your vision to work ," Cain said.

His vision led to OBP – a community volunteer organization that reaches out to children, parents and entire neighborhoods with a helping hand and promotes respect for all people, Cain said.

Ironton’s very own Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration came later. So did OBP’s float in the Memorial Day Parade, which won an award this year.

Students found tutoring, encouragement and trips to the University of Kentucky’s homecoming and Atlanta, Ga., Cain said.

Neighbors found a willing ear to listen, he said.

Now, OBP has a community center at Ninth and Madison Streets – complete with classrooms, computers, staff, programs for teen parents and many activities.

"And you’re still thinking of things to do to structure our lives in a more positive manner," Cain said.

"And we thank you."

Throughout the night, dozens of people, from acquaintances to family, also rose to thank Pleasant.

Mayor Bob Cleary declared Aug. 7 as Robert Pleasant Jr. Day. City council members read a resolution honoring the accomplishments for which Pleasant gave of himself to enrich others.

"You know, I’m really a stand-in for Marty," said Evelyn Weill, OBP board member and city resident.

"He loved Bob; he believed in Bob; and he considered Bob the one person in Ironton who could represent the people of Ironton once us old people are gone."

Jason Harmon sang a rap specially composed for Pleasant, evoking smiles and claps all around the room.

"God bless you when he named you Pleasant Cause truly it’s pleasant to have you in my presence."

Shalonda Scott compared Pleasant to Moses, because he leads people toward new lands of opportunity, she said, just before she and Kristen Schneider sang a selection from the movie "Prince of Egypt."

Fun facts of Pleasant’s childhood, told by Cain, sent chuckles through the audience.

A poem from his mother, Virginia, brought out tissues and handkerchiefs.

Plaques, gifts and slides of boyhood photos wrapped up the celebration.

Then, the "man with a vision" took the podium himself to say he was speechless – for the first time in his life.

"First, I always give honor to God first," Pleasant said, but added that he could not pass up a moment to thank his parents and the dozens who made OBP possible.

"I have no doubt, working together as a village, we can make a difference."

Earlier, his younger brother, Craig, remarked on his sibling’s make-a-difference philosophy.

"I said one day, ‘How can you get that message to all of America?’ and he said, ‘It’s got to be each one teach one.’"