U.S. celebrates greatest speech ever given
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 00:02
“Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.” This has become the greatest ending to one of the greatest speeches ever given in the history of mankind. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before thousands of American citizens on Aug. 28, 1963, and decreed that man should be judged by content of character rather than color of skin.
As we take time to celebrate Black History Month, we should take a moment to recognize the lasting effect that this speech has had. This particular speech given 50 years ago has given African-Americans opportunities that they may not have had otherwise. I would like to point out some African-Americans that were the first of their race to achieve greatness because of this monumental speech.
Since 1963, many African-Americans have achieved firsts from pop-culture to politics. For instance, in 1984, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American Miss America. Tiger Woods became the first African-American golfer to win the Master’s tournament, and Barrington Irving was the first to pilot an airplane around the world.
While Jackie Robinson was a baseball player in the Major Leagues before 1963, it was not until later that he was accepted into the Major League Hall of Fame.
Ruth Simmons became the first African-American president of an Ivy League school and Thurgood Marshall became the first to be appointed a U.S. Supreme Court judge. Sidney Poitier became the first African-American actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor and Oprah Winfrey became the first to host a nationally televised program.
It seems fitting to me to recognize the greatest accomplishment of becoming the first African-American to be elected — not once but twice — to be the president of the United States. It is also appropriate that Barack Obama was sworn into the presidency on Martin Luther King Day this year.
ETSU will also pay homage to the Civil Rights Movement by unveiling the commemorative fountain outside of Sherrod Library to remember the desegregation of this campus.