MLK 'I have a dream' speechwriter addresses UCF Thursday
In 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke the historic words "I have a dream."
This Thursday in the UCF Student Union, the man who helped King write the speech that would define the Civil Rights Movement appeared to speak before students and faculty.
Clarence B. Jones, University of San Francisco professor, adviser and speechwriter for King, spoke of King's impact on furthering the American Dream, one that not everyone in the United States can call their own.
He emphasized the power of unity.
"We did not get here by ourselves, but because we had the help of a large group that was not African-American, because they understood," he said.
More responsibility, he said, should be the driving issue behind our country's decision, instead of politics.
"The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were not acts of kindness by the congress," Jones said. "It was the movement of the people that changed the conscious of the congress to do something."
The third event and final event in UCF's Civil Rights Series, Jones' appearance was organized by the Global Perspectives Office in collaboration with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Student Development and Enrollment Services to mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Public affairs coordinator for the Global Perspectives Office Jessica Gagnon said the series was meant to "celebrate the civil rights act and its impact on the world."
"The inspiration behind this was that we really wanted to put the spotlight on individuals who have played a significant role not only in the history of America, but also how global citizens view us," she said.
A representative from the office of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio opened the event, delivering a message to thank the audience for taking part in celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Following the conclusion of the event, the crowd of more than 150 applauded before exiting the room, with many lining up outside for a book signing with Jones.
"It seems as if he, as a speechwriter, had a little bit of humbleness in him to stay in the shadows without really seeking credit," said Donald Williams, a senior interdisciplinary studies major.
His fraternity, Iota Phi Theta, Williams said, was founded in 1963 — the same year King delivered his infamous "I have a dream" speech.
"This really helps to give some insight on what was happening in that time period and to talk to someone who was there for many of the big things going on, but within the background," he said.
High school teacher and graduate student Tod Joossens said the event went beyond his expectations.
"It was very interesting, very informative," he said. "Many of the things he said I can take back to the classroom. I always try to take something back and as they say 'stand on the shoulders of giants,' and we can definitely carry on this legacy."
Christopher Bobo is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.