He had a dream, but it would be up to future generations to realize it.
Thursday marked the opening of the 24th annual MLK Commemoration Program and Celebration Week.
The night’s march began with the bells ringing at Old Main and ended on the steps of the LBJ Student Center.
Students held signs and sang hymns during the march to honor the Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Participants stopped halfway through the march and gathered at The Stallions to hear a reading of King’s speech “Free at Last” and to listen to members of Alpha Phi Alpha sing their fraternity hymn.
Alumni Avin Jordan and Francisco Mendoza said they come back to the university to participate each year. Jordan and Mendoza were part of the fraternity hymn sung in honor of King, who was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. Mendoza said he feels a sense of pride while singing.
“The song was written by one of our members in the time of battle,” Jordan said. “It was written because he was in a time of self-reflection and loneliness.”
Amani Baha, political science freshman, said the march was inspiring and made her feel at home.
“We all stood for one thing,” Baha said.
The keynote program was given at the LBJ Teaching Theatre after the march.
University Presidentgave the opening welcome for the program, reflecting on King’s partnership with Lyndon B. Johnson.
Trauth questioned if society would see the type of leadership King and Johnson portrayed again. She also commented on the countries newly elected President Barack Obama.
“King would be proud,” Trauth said. “He is smiling knowing how far we have come.”
Students listened to a King-honoring prayer and took part in singing the Black National Anthem.
Valerie Bridgeman, keynote speaker, began her speech with the question, “Where do we go from here?” Bridgeman mentioned the gap between the old and new generations.
“It’s time for young people to take their place in the world,” Bridgeman said. “This work is not the job of one generation. We rise together or we fall together.”
Bridgeman drew the connections between the generations by showing similarities. Bridgeman said Hurricane Katrina is the younger generation’s Birmingham and Vietnam is the older people’s Iraq. Bridgeman said young people hold the ability to bridge the gap.
“You are the dream generation,” Bridgeman said. “You are the products of King’s struggles, and it is your job to continue the work.”
Bridgeman ended her speech by answering her opening question.
“The answer is tied to our ability to dream,” Bridgeman said, quoting President Barack Obama. “It’s time to put our hands to work and build a better history.”
Jonnie Wilson, assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs, said she is proud of the event’s turn out.
“We have come a long way,” Wilson said. “I’m glad to see it was important to all students to celebrate this event.”
Bridgeman said 47 volunteers assisted in putting the event together, which is an increase from the previous years.
“I think the students are elated,” Wilson said. “I think they have more hope with Obama.”