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Celebrating King’s Dream on a Historic Day
Teresa Younger, executive director of Connecticut's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, was the keynote speaker at Monday's event.
Members of the University of Hartford Magnet School Chorus, directed by Laura Deutsch, sing "I Have a Dream."
University student Bo-Edward Lawrence '16 performs original spoken word poetry, titled "Will Dreams Ever Become a Reality?".
(L-R) President Walter Harrison; essay contest winners Diamond Washington, Lance Johnson, and Bo-Edward Lawrence; and Assistant Vice President DeLois Traynum Lindsey.
President Barack Obama’s inauguration to a second term provided a powerful backdrop Monday (Jan. 21) as the University community came together to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hundreds gathered in Lincoln Theater for the University’s seventh annual Martin Luther King Day observance. “The Right to Dream” was the theme of this year’s program, which featured an inspirational mix of music and reflections commemorating the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.
As faculty, staff, students, and community members paid tribute to Dr. King, Obama was being sworn in to a second term as the nation’s first African American president. Speakers at Monday’s event said Obama’s second inauguration is a powerful tribute to King’s legacy, but it does not mean that King’s dream has been fully realized. Much more remains to be done, they said.
“King's vision was broader than just racial equality, and it requires more than what we have today,” said keynote speaker Teresa Younger. Younger is executive director of Connecticut's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, and has a long history of advocating for civil rights and civil liberties.
If King were alive today, "We would be hearing his voice on the very issues so critical to his dream of equality, issues like voter suppression, immigrant rights, gun violence, the Affordable Care Act, minimum wage, human trafficking and even pay equity," Younger said. "King understood the impact of economic equality as a key to true equality.
"I want to leave you with this thought," Younger said. "What will you do today – and tomorrow – and the next day – to change something wrong in our world?"
In addition to Younger’s speech, Monday’s event also featured remarks by University President Walter Harrison, a musical performance by the University of Hartford Magnet School Chorus, and a powerful presentation of spoken word poetry written and performed by University student Bo-Edward Lawrence '16.
Hartt School faculty members Shawnn Monteiro, Mark Templeton, and Nat Reeves performed a musical selection, and Hartt student Shauntice Marshall GPD '14 sang a stirring rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing.
In addition, winners of the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest were recognized. The winners were: University of Hartford Magnet School student Diamond Washington (5th grade); University High School of Science and Engineering student Lance Johnson (11th grade); and University of Hartford student Bo-Edward Lawrence '16. The runner-up was Amari Wells (5th grade) of the University of Hartford Magnet School.
DeLois Traynum Lindsey, assistant vice president for student development, served as mistress of ceremonies for Monday’s program.
In his remarks, President Harrison said that Obama’s inauguration to a second term is an important milestone “that owes a great deal to the life, the vision, the intellect, and the tireless efforts of Dr. King.” But, like Younger, Harrison said that much work remains to be done.
“When I think of what is still left to be done, I can’t help but think of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, just over a month ago. Dr. King was not only the greatest civil rights leader of all time, he was one of the greatest leaders of nonviolent change in the history of the world,” Harrison said.
“I rededicate myself today, in Dr. King’s memory, to work toward serious and responsible gun control in this country,” Harrison said. “Join me in rededicating yourselves to achieving those aspects of Dr. King’s dream that remain challenges to our collective dream for a better tomorrow.”
The University's Martin Luther King Day Planning Committee will continue paying tribute to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement with a three-part film and discussion series on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, and Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in Konover Campus Center. Read about the film and discussion series.