Forty-four years after Martin Luther King, Jr. issued his infamous ‘I have a dream’ speech on Aug. 28, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree, Jr. issued this year’s keynote address titled ‘Dr. King’s Dream: Are We Fulfilling it?’ last Thursday, Jan. 18 in the Crystal Cove Auditorium for the 23rd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium
The Symposium, a three-day celebration held to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of equality and freedom, consisted of a day of community service and an on-campus march that funneled into a rally. Last Monday, students volunteered alongside community members at the Orange County Food Bank for two hours while supporting the notion to ‘make it a day on, not a day off.’
The night opened with brief addresses and introductions from Chancellor Michael Drake, Cross Cultural Center Director Anna Gonzalez and Dr. Joseph L. Wyatt. Professor Ogletree accompanied his address with slides filled with visual images as he highlighted key historical events that followed King’s speech and challenged the audience to reflect on how King’s dream, and those events, apply to modern day citizens and, more specifically, young people.
He used the following quote from an anonymous source: ‘A paradox of our time and history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy less; we have bigger houses but smaller families; more businesses but less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more medicine but less wellness; more possessions but have reduced our values; we talk too much, love too seldom, hate too often, we drink too much, smoke too much, laugh too little, drive too fast, get angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, watch TV too much and pray too seldom.’
‘That is who we are in the 21st century,’ Professor Ogletree said. ‘Yet, we do not understand the importance of looking back. The dream King talked about in 1963 was not America but the aspiration of what he hoped America would be.’
Professor Ogletree raised the point that many young people may not know that King obtained a PhD. from Boston University and won a Nobel Peace Prize. He briefly spoke on other historical figures within his address, such as Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez and Charles Hamilton Houston, and also highlighted historical events such as the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education court case. Some other historical events he included were the 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white woman, because of her assistance to civil rights leaders and the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till because he whistled at a white woman.
He posed the following question accordingly, ‘The future plight of black America: chaos or community?’
Ogletree used statistics to demonstrate the current national crisis for black youth. According to Ogletree, black youth are more likely to be detained and less likely to finish high school in the states of Washington, Illinois, Arizona, New York and Alaska, which were the states that had the highest percentage of black students drop out.
In 2001, a total of 105,566 bachelor’s degrees were awarded nationally, but only 7,394 of those were awarded to black students. Ogletree said that many historical figures were young and thrust into revolution, and that it is up to one’s generation to make a difference.
‘In his very last speech, King challenged us to do something to change America,’ Ogletree said. ‘[King] said, ‘I wish I could say racism and prejudice were only distant memories and liberty and equality were just around the bend. I wish I could say that America had come to appreciate diversity and to see and accept similarities. But as I look around, I see not a nation of unity but of division