HOUSTON -- The Texas Southern University Debate Team recited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Houston City Hall reflecting pool on Wednesday. It wasn’t the first time Morris Fountain heard the speech in person.
"I had a sense of hope for change,” Fountain said.
Fountain, a leader in Houston’s African American community, was a 20-year-old electrical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh who traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1963 to hear Dr. King’s speech.
After joining the thousands at the base of the Lincoln Memorial he admits he was buoyed by the sense that change was in the wind. But better yet he says he accepted the message that the change would depend on him.
"I felt that I needed to more equip myself to be more ‘of’ the change,” Fountain said.
At the Houston commemoration of Dr. King’s speech, led by Mayor Annise Parker, the crowd rang bells to symbolize a community still letting “freedom ring.” But in a brief speech, Mayor Parker also talked about the work yet to do.
"Today is about looking back 50 years and saying my Lord how far have we come,” Parker said. "But today is also about looking hard-eyed at today and saying Lord how far have we yet to travel.”
"I believe that this 50 year anniversary is a new beginning,” Fountain said. “And I'm asking all of Houston to be patient. I'm very excited with the 50th anniversary but I’m very excited about what's going to be, and I know it's going to be."
Marcus Esther was among the TSU debate students who recited Dr. King’s famous speech at the City Hall event. The 20-year-old is the same age as Morris Fountain when he witnessed the original speech.
Esther said he realizes how different his life is after 50 years of civil rights advances, but as a political science major planning on becoming a lawyer he also feels compelled to be of the change that Dr. King spoke.
"I'm still positive,” Esther said. “Right now we still have a while to go but so far I think that we have a bright future."
Esther’s professor at TSU, legendary Dr. Thomas Freeman who introduced his newest pupils at the event, knows something about those futures. In the late 1940’s he was a professor at Morehouse College. One of his promising students was a young man with a gift for compelling oratory: Martin Luther King Jr.