'Dream' Speech Still Rings True
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 30, 2013 02:08
In 1963, thousands of people joined Martin Luther King Jr. in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the National Mall. On Wednesday, thousands listened to President Barack Obama honor the 50th anniversary of that event from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“As we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires,” Obama said. “It was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life.”
The anniversary was honored nationwide, with Obama’s speech serving as part of a five-hour event featuring former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. In his speech, Obama urged those who were born after King’s death to revive his advocacy for today’s issues of injustice.
At Georgetown, the university joined institutions across the county in ringing the Healy Hall bells at 3 p.m. in commemoration of the time King began his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., led the ceremony in memory of the historic moment.
“It is fitting at the nation’s oldest Jesuit and Catholic university that we pause on the first day of classes to reflect on the meaning of King’s dream for all of us because this is a dream which is both holy and very human,” O’Brien, who also serves as vice president for mission and ministry, said.
Seven students whom O’Brien said represented a cross section of the student body read excerpts from King’s speech.
“We wanted different races and different ethnicities, we wanted different religions and different genders because that’s the diversity King spoke of in the speech,” O’Brien told The Hoya.
The events on the National Mall were the culmination of a weeklong celebration, which included a rally and remembrance march, organized by Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday. The Supreme Court’s June decision to strike down Section 4B of the 1965 Voting Rights Act served as the rallying cry behind the march.
Obama touched on the sentiment of discontent surrounding this ruling in his speech.
“To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years,” Obama said. “But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.”
On campus, O’Brien called on students to continue the fight for diversity and equality of all kinds.
“We wanted to remember both the call and the challenge of the dream speech,” O’Brien told The Hoya. “We know that much has been accomplished over the last 50 years, but there is much more that needs to be done. This was a moment of celebration but also a moment of challenge for us as a university.”
Adan Gonzalez (COL ’15), who read from the speech at Healy, said he was inspired by the moment.
“It was amazing to see everyone gather in a huge circle and realize what the speech was about,” Gonzalez said. “Looking into the crowd and realizing that the dream, one way or another, is being realized on our campus, we’ve come a long way.”
David Price (COL ’14), who also read from King’s speech, attended the march through Washington on Saturday.
“It was very profound. The atmosphere sent chills through my body,” Price said. “What we often forget is that what King was saying 50 years ago was going against the grain of what people wanted … and although King was shot and slain [and] although they killed the person who created the dream, they did not kill the dream itself.”