OGDEN -- Fifty years after civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. made his most famous speech, students and faculty members gathered at Weber State University to reaffirm that they still have a dream.
King's 17-minute "I Have a Dream" speech ran on a video loop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Wildcat Theater, and a late-morning ceremony focused on both progress made toward racial equality and on dreams still waiting to be fulfilled.
"The life of Martin Luther King Jr. was prematurely extinguished some time ago, well before many of us were born, but his spirit can live on in us," said speaker Amir Jackson, a WSU alumnus and founder of Nuture the Creative Mind, a foundation that promotes education and character development through creative expression, during the ceremony.
"I say it can, because it is not a guarantee," Jackson said. "We have to choose to allow it to, we have to defend the legacy that King and others like him fought for, we have to love and understand love is an action word. It is something that we actively choose do."
King gave his iconic 1963 speech, calling for an end to racism, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More than 250,000 people gathered to listen. King was silenced less than five years later by an assassin.
For a full text of the speech, visit www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf.
Jeff Henry, WSU African American student senator, said laws and regulations may be in place to give minority citizens equal access to institutions and opportunities, but people's attitudes still stand in the way of equality.
"It's a different time now than when Dr. King gave that speech," Henry said. "We still have a ways to go. Access has been granted, but disparity in treatment is really phenomenal."
Henry said, after his formal speech, that his major is in a health care field, and he and another student went to an area hospital to gather information for a class assignment. Henry, who is black, was in business dress, with a tie. His white classmate, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, arrived a few minutes after Henry, and requested the same data. Henry was told officials would get back to him, and his classmate was given the information. The hospital did call him back, Henry said, after the due date for the assignment.
"Two students in the same major, the only differences between us was color," he said. "One was accepted with open arms, one was put on the back burner."
Racism is just more subtle now, Henry said.
"It's based on individuals' beliefs. That's where change needs to occur on a significant level. We need to stop looking for differences, and see ourselves as humans. Martin Luther King helped everyone with that speech, whether they are black, white, Asian, male, female, whatever their sexual orientation. It changes your behavior when you look at each other from the human side of things."
King's speech was made a century after Pres. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves free.
"America cannot be truly great until its people are truly free," said WSU President Chuck Wight. "My dream is that Weber State University will become a place where people of all colors are able to stand together at the fountain of knowledge. Because Weber State cannot be a truly great university until we are all gathered together in respectful conversation to learn from one another."
Detorea Oliver, a singer from Layton, entertained the crowd of 60 or so with two hymns.
"Dr. King's speech is one of the reasons I am afforded so many opportunities that were not available to me 50 years ago," she said.
Jackson ended his talk with a call to action.
"Let us stand up, stand together, stand now," he said. "Stand now, if for no other reason than the reason that standing tomorrow just may be too late. A positive proactive investment today, right now, lessens the need for a negative, reactive investment later. Let us stand up, stand together, stand now. And when we do so, the hope that each of us have here today will become a tangible reality, and we will truly honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."