Local leaders at the King County celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. — with King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, Councilmember Rod Dembowski, Dow Constantine, King County Executive, Julia Patterson and King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.
Local leaders, past and present, remember Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
August 28, 2013, marked the 50 year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963, where the clergyman and civil rights activist called for an end to racism in the United States.
In memory of Dr. King’s legacy (including the namesake for our county), King County elected officials spoke of his legacy at the King County Courthouse, where artwork featuring Dr. King is on display in the building’s rotunda.
Here are their remarks, courtesy of a King County press release:
"Fifty years after that pivotal event, we are still striving to make Dr. King's dream a reality," said Executive Constantine. "On this day we rededicate ourselves to the task of creating a truly just society, where every person has the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential."
King County Council Chair Larry Gossett was heavily involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. As a student at the University of Washington, he was one of the founders of the Black Student Union. During today's observance, Council Chair Gossett encouraged attendees to keep working to eliminate inequities.
"Dr. King's dream urged us to work to change the world into a 'Beloved Community' of equality and justice," said Council Chair Gossett. "We have accomplished much, but as we continue doing the work of Dr. King, we should keep in mind that he urged us to fight against the evil triplets of militarism, materialism, and racism. Until we have ridden the world of these evils, his dream – our dreams – will not become reality."
Former King County Councilmember Bruce Laing, who was one of the leaders in the effort to rename King County for the civil rights leader, also remarked on Dr. King's vision and legacy.
"Dr. King's speech presents a scathing litany of injustices suffered by the black community, but he encourages his audience to conduct their struggle for equality without resorting to physical violence," Laing said. "An emphasis on nonviolence was a hallmark of his career, and undoubtedly a significant factor in his selection for the Nobel Peace Prize."
Former King County Councilmember Dwight Pelz was among the estimated 250,000 people who heard Dr. King speak on August 28, 1963. He recalled his emotions on that day, and the impact Dr. King's words had on his life and on the United States.
"I was a 12-year-old boy in Washington, D.C. on a hot day in 1963 when America stood up to say no to racism, a major step in one of the greatest revolutions in world history," Pelz said. "45 years later, at the other end of the Mall, on a very cold day, America inaugurated an African-American President, as the arc of freedom bent toward justice."
The Courthouse artwork depicting the March on Washington, entitled "Truth Crushed to the Earth Will Rise Again," was created by artist Linda Beaumont in 2005. Inspired by the 1986 decision to rename King County for the civil rights leader, Beaumont chose to honor Dr. King by using an image of him and the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial as the central focus of the rotunda floor. The original photo was taken by Flip Schulke, a photographer who often traveled with Dr. King to document the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Beaumont's terrazzo and marble piece is surrounded by a quote from Dr. King. Inlaid in brass, the text reads, "Never allow it to be said that you are silent onlookers, detached spectators, but that you are involved participants in the struggle to make justice a reality." The quote comes from a speech that Dr. King delivered at the Oberlin (Ohio) College commencement in June 1965.
Images of Dr. King are also featured elsewhere in the Courthouse. A series of charcoal and pencil murals by Douglas Cooper, entitled "From these Hills, from these Waters," tell the history of King County. One of the panels located in the Courthouse rotunda uses Dr. King as a central figure in a depiction of the struggle for fair distribution of wealth. Finally, a photo in etched glass of Dr. King, also taken by Flip Schulke, can be found at the Courthouse exit onto Third Avenue.