COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Thousands of people came to the Greater Columbus Convention Center Monday for the 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Breakfast.

High school students Shayanna Hinkle-Moore and Andre Smith came to the event with their church youth group.

“Doctor Martin  Luther King Junior is an important part of American history, an  important part of being a black student in America,” said Hinkle-Moore, a senior at Independence High School.

The theme of this year’s breakfast was the purpose of education.

“My parents made sure that education was a priority for me, cause that’s going to open up many opportunities for me  as I go to the real world, as I go into college. So education’s important and I think it’s imperative that everybody has the opportunity to have a good education,” Hinkle-Moore said.

Smith, who will graduate from the career center at Columbus Downtown High School in 2020, said the breakfast was a good way to remember the civil rights leader.

“I think for youth, it’s good for us to remember what happened back in the past,  because we need to direct what we’re doing now to see what they [were] fighting for,” Smith said. “So I’m a black young youth trying to fight for our rights.”

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine all spoke ahead of the keynote speaker, Dr. John B. King, Jr., who served as education secretary under President Obama.

“I am where I am successfully in my career and in my life endeavors cause he paved the way for me,” Lajuana Brooks said.

Brooks, who attended the breakfast for the first time this year, is a fraud analyst for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

“On February 7, I will have 25 years in, and fortunately I was the very first Afro-American hire in that particular position,” Brooks said.

Also important, Brooks said, is Dr. King’s message that all people should be treated equally.

“I just think all these years later we should still keep his dream alive. The dream should never die,” Brooks said.

The Martin Luther King breakfast committee, which organizes the event, says it is the largest sit-down breakfast of its kind in the nation.