Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream lived on through a heartfelt tribute to the man who helped change a nation. The 20th annual celebration was held in the Ashland Armory on Monday.
D.L. Richardson, communications professor at Southern Oregon University, has hosted the event for four years. Each year the attendance rises, with an estimated 500 to 600 people this year.
"It’s a great program because so many diverse groups are involved, Southern Oregon University, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland City School District are all hand in hand equally involved," said Richardson.
As everyone scrambled to find a seat, with dozens of people standing in the back of the room, Richardson came on stage and greeted everyone to the event.
Commitment was the main theme of the celebration. Listed on cards passed out to the crowd were ten commitments with a place below to sign. These were read throughout the ceremony.
"Who does it take? It takes me, and it takes you," Richardson said. "You must commit to change to make a better life for you and your kids."
Community resident Bill McMillan attended the event for the first time.
"[King] is one of the more important figures in our history in terms of speaking up for a large segment of our population and our rights, and he did it in such a way that people could hear it," McMillan said.
School and community groups offered different kinds of performances. Walker Elementary, Ashland’s Youth Dance Group and Planned Parenthood each performed songs and dances.
SOU’s International Program presented King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Each part was spoken in a different language.
Others involved in the event were Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch, the Farm Worker Advocacy Group and other community members including local musicians and poets.
SOU’s Black Student Union ended the presentations with a skit expressing unity.
Richardson quoted King’s speech to students from 1956, "Whatever career you may choose for yourself—doctor, lawyer, teacher—let me propose an avocation to be pursued along with it. Become a dedicated fighter for civil rights. Make it a central part of your life…make a career of humanity."
The event ended with a march from the Armory to the Plaza in downtown Ashland.
Richardson said, "I think people are interested in keeping the dream that Dr. King had alive. I think that is the main thing."