King’s Legacy Celebrated in Speech, Song

Annual Event ‘Shares the Dream’ Through Reminiscences, Performances

Jan. 22, 2010

On the anniversary of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, students, faculty, staff and community supporters gathered at The University of Texas at Dallas to celebrate the man whose legacy made Obama’s election possible.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast featured a talk by the Rev. James Young, who made history last year when he became the first African-American to be elected mayor of Philadelphia, Miss.

Philadelphia became infamous when three visiting civil rights workers were murdered there in 1964. The incident inspired the 1988 Academy Award-winning film Mississippi Burning.

“Not often do you get to live long enough to experience hatred and prejudice, but to also be a byproduct of change,” said Young as he began his speech.

Young spoke of his background, his experiences with his own children and how King was able to make an impact through non-violent protest.

“Dr. King was a man of his time,” said Young. “He went to a supreme power to affect change, and he understood that education was needed to ‘think your way through.’ ”

Amid insights, Young infused his remarks with humor.

“My dad taught me to work hard,” he said. “My mom told me to get an education so you don’t have to work that hard.”

Young also discussed the attention generated by his election. He recalled a media interview during which he was asked how he represented all his constituents.

“I walk down the middle of the road so I can reach out on both sides,” he said.

As Young summed up his talk, he reflected on the three voter registration workers who were killed in his hometown almost 50 years ago.

“I get emotional when I think about the blood that was shed,” said Young. “All they did was register people to vote. Racism, hatred and prejudice put them in the ground. If we’re not careful, we’ll make the same mistakes.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Magaly Spector and UT Dallas President David Daniel presented Young with a Champion of Diversity award “in recognition of his contributions to the goals of diversity in America.”

“Mayor Young is a living example of our theme today, ‘Sharing the Dream,’ ” said Spector.

The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Multicultural Center, the Student Union & Activities Advisory Board (SUAAB) and the University Committee on Equity and Diversity sponsored the event. 

King’s birthday was Jan. 15.  The MLK holiday for staff and students was observed Jan. 18, the same day as the federal holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King in 1983. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.


Media Contacts:  Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4329, karah.hosek@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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James Young

Featured speaker James Young talked about his election as the first African-American mayor of Philadelphia, Miss., a town that has carried the stigma of the murders of three civil rights workers since 1964.

Aundra Smith

Aundra Smith performed an interpretive dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” as part of the MLK Breakfast festivities.

 

Rachel Dupard

Rachel Dupard sang three songs, including one she wrote, during the course of the UT Dallas Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Breakfast.

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