SDSU commemorates MLK speech

SDSU commemorates MLK speech

by Camille Lozano

Willie Horton Jr. was a student at San Diego State in 1964 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in what is now the campus’ open air theater. The civil rights activist has been an inspiration to Horton since he was 12, when he first saw him speak in church.

Horton was invited to share his experiences with King on Wednesday for the half-century anniversary celebration of King’s visit to the SDSU campus.

 “Dr. King always gave me a beacon of hope in my darkest hours,” Horton said. “He was true in mortar. He knew how to say what others only knew how to think.”

The event began at 3:30 p.m. in the courtyard of the theater and included speeches from the university’s historian Seth Mallios, President Elliot Hirshman and others. Associated Students, the SDSU Alumni Association and Cal Coast Credit Union sponsored the event.

The unveiling of a permanent plaque commemorating King’s SDSU appearance in 1964 also took place. The plaque includes a photo of King speaking at SDSU and the most famous quote from his campus speech: “We must live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.” It will be installed by the entrance of the theater as the largest plaque on campus.

“Martin Luther King Jr. met hate with love, ignorance with brilliance and apathy with passion,” Mallios said. “That is why we are here in celebration. It is the triumph of perseverance, of humanity and justice.”

SDSU students who won an essay contest honoring the activist were also invited to speak. The contest required students to write about one of three themes related to King’s speech, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” The themes were racial or economic justice, why peace deserves public attention and what responsibilities we hold for our fellow citizens.

Liberal studies freshman Jessica Ahern, shared her winning essay with the audience, speaking of educational inequalities.

“I really thought it was important to voice my opinion,” Ahern said. “This celebration allows us to look back at history, see our mistakes and learn how to better ourselves for the future.”

Nine-year-old Jeremiah Carr concluded the event, passionately reciting King’s most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” from memory. Carr said it took him around 6 months to memorize the speech.

Mallios said locating memorabilia of King’s 1964 visit was the biggest challenge in preparing for the celebration. The search took more than a year, as nothing was found in the university archives.

San Diego’s CBS News 8 unearthed a 16-millimeter reel of film that contained three different excerpts from the 1964 SDSU speech in their own archives. Mallios also said some newspaper articles from the U-T San Diego and the receipt for the rental podium King used were found. He is still looking for the original speech transcript.

“These events reinforce our commitment,” Chief Diversity Officer Aaron Bruce said of the anniversary celebration and the Diversity Awards Ceremony that followed.

“Although we celebrate diversity every day in a variety of different ways, it’s important to celebrate the accomplishments and milestones that make SDSU great, and that’s the people,” Bruce said.