Lucye Rafferty/The Hoya Georgetown University Gospel Choir presents a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome” at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Thursday night.

Nearly 2,000 Georgetown students, faculty and District residents gathered Thursday evening at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Stage, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech,” given to over 250,000 people during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

The event included performances from the Georgetown Gospel Choir and Metropolitan Music Ministry of Metropolitan Baptist Church and a keynote address by Ossie Davis.

“I was one of the very fortunate people to be there at that place, that unforgettable day, in which a simple four words made us understand we shared a common dream, apart from our history, culture and blood,” Davis remarked.

Davis reflected upon King’s address as the culmination of the civil rights movement.

“Something then happened to the soul of our nation, and we couldn’t let go,” he said. “Time tried to take King’s message away from us, but we resisted, knowing to save the speech, use the speech and let the speech use us.”

Before the final musical performance of the night, Davis offered his own hopes for all of those celebrating King’s speech, which sent the entire crowd into an eruption of applause. “I too have a dream,” he said. “That some day, the American dream, that stored the vision, will finally come true, and we will all be free. Free from hatred, fear, killing of innocent children, free to study war no more. I too have a dream, and I hope you have one too.”

The Georgetown Gospel Choir and Metropolitan Music Ministry of etropolitan Baptist Church complimented Davis’ sentimental and historic recollections, offering a celebration of Dr. King through hymns including “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “We Shall Overcome.” The finale, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” brought the 2,000 guests to their feet.

“Off and on stage it was complete excitement and pandemonium. Not only were we performing in the Kennedy center, but also in the presence of Ossie Davis, and all in tribute to Dr. King and his dream,” Matt Gadsden (MSB ’05), a member of the GU Gospel Choir, said. “It was great seeing the effort that Georgetown put into the program and remembrance of Dr. King, and just shows that we all as a university pay homage to his life and are indeed living his dream.”

Student speakers accompanied the opening remarks of University President John J. DeGioia and Davis’ address, offering personal reflections of how King and his civil rights work had affected their families. Speakers hailed Georgetown’s commitment to programs that increase awareness about diversity.

“The `Let it Ring’ series that Georgetown has been sponsoring has been a great celebration of Dr. King’s dream and our dedication to promoting diversity and pluralism on campus,” Luis Torres (COL ’05) said.

Torres shared his own personal reflection with those in attendance, explaining that his parents were Mexican migrant farm workers and had learned of the nonviolent message through King himself, after he mentored some workers in their community.

“It was great to hear all of the various student speakers sharing their own personal connection with Dr. King, despite their background or story,” Torres said.

Davis and his wife of 50 years, Ruby Dee, served as speech introducers during the march in 1963. Together Davis and Dee went on to produce television documentaries with PBS, including “Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum; A Walk Through the 20th Century with Bill Moyers,” and the series “With Ossie and Ruby.” Davis also was a Neil Simon award-winner as author of `For Us the Living’, the story of Medgar Evers.

The program was the second part of the “Let Freedom Ring” series, sponsored by Georgetown University and the Kennedy Center. In 2003, Georgetown celebrated the King’s birthday on the Millennium Stage, which featured the legendary Roberta Flack performing with the Georgetown University Chapel and Gospel Choirs.

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