On Tuesday, April 3, an abridged version of Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr.’s final speech before his assassination was played in front of a guest panel and audience as part of the “Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: 50 years since his death” event.

Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Dottie Morris said she organized the event in conjunction with a few people on campus who thought it would be a good idea to commemorate the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination. Morris said, “We thought it would be a good idea to do something to at least acknowledge his life, more than his death, but his life,”

Morris said the speech, which she considers to be a sermon, was delivered to Tennessee Sanitation workers protesting mistreatment.

After Morris introduced the event, Interim President Melinda Treadwell spoke briefly about the importance of revisiting Dr. King’s words and memory.  

Director of Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Dr. Hank Knight was the event facilitator and introduced the panel, which consisted of Rabbi Amy Loewenthal, Rev. Mark Ferrin, Rev. Sandra Rouse and Rev. John Gregory Davis.

Ferrin is a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Keene and said he was invited by Dottie Morris to be on the panel. “Dr. King has been a hero and mentor for me for many years, and so we’re going to be honoring his legacy tonight with his last speech and then the anniversary of his death tomorrow, so I figured it was a good opportunity to share some of my journey, things I’ve learned from folks like Dr. King,” Ferrin said.

Morris gave audience members a transcript of the excerpts from the speech so that they could follow along as Dr. King’s voice boomed from the speakers above.

After the audio was finished, the panelists discussed their thoughts and reactions to the speech before getting reactions from the audience.

Ferrin said he hoped the evening’s event encouraged people to listen to each other. “I think Dr. King, for me, was always a listener as well as a preacher and a speaker. Sometimes, preachers like us use our mouths and not our ears as much, and they say God gave us two ears, so being able to listen to each other more, even if we disagree with each other [is important],”

First-year management major Amanda Smith said she attended the event as part of a public speaking class and because she was interested in the topic. “I just hope to learn the history behind [Dr. Martin King Jr.] and figure out what kind of speaker he was and how he influenced the public.”

Morris said that the event should be of interest to students today because of the insight that the past has to offer. “What we’re currently seeing is grounded in the past, and if we don’t learn about the past, it’s hard for us to make sense of what’s currently going on and then to look for the future, and so I think we have to have a good context,” Morris said.

Vincent Moore can be contacted at vmoore@kscequinox.com