PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Hundreds of Central Illinoisans on Monday gathered at the Peoria Civic Center for the 31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder served as this year’s keynote speaker. Holder served under President Obama from 2009 to 2015, the first African American to hold the position of Attorney General.

“It’s a legacy of great achievement. He changed this nation in many fundamental ways,” Holder said.

Holder paid tribute to King’s life and legacy fighting “the three evils” of racism, poverty and war.

“Though he is revered now, his focus on dismantling those evils often times made him an unpopular figure… As he emphasized his opposition to war and spread the focus of his work outside of the South, he became a threatening, polarizing, and disliked figure,” he said.

To carry on King’s vision of equality, Holder said we have to consider where we are as a nation.

“To take stock of our progress, take responsibility for the work that remains before us, and to rededicate ourselves to the dream of social, racial and economic justice that is Dr. King’s living legacy…It’s time for each of us to ask… where do we go from here,” said Holder.

Joshua Gunn, CEO of Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was “blown away by the attendance” and Holder’s speech was “spot on.” It was his first time at the luncheon.

“The message was we’re proud of what Dr. King contributed, but let’s also be honest about who he was. The fact that he was challenging our nation at a very difficult time. And in order for us to progress, we have to continue to challenge our city, our community and our nation just like he did,” he said.

Peoria Fourth District Councilman Andre Allen said he is inspired to carry on King’s work.

“We’ve made progress but we can’t be satisfied. Progress is the road map but the destination is solutions for everyone. So we need to continue to keep advocating for liberty, justice for all to ensure a fair and just society for everyone…As an African-American male, just having role models and I understand that I stand on the shoulders of giants like Eric Holder and MLK. So I’m motivated and I’m ready to get back to work,” he said.

This year marks 60 years since King’s March on Washington. It’s where King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.