At precisely 1 p.m. Wednesday, the sound of ringing bells at the Utah Capitol and in other states commemorated Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that, 50 years ago, inspired millions of Americans to join in the crusade for civil rights.
At the celebration, the Rev. France Davis, of Calvary Baptist Church, told the crowd that he vividly remembers the day he saw the march in Washington, D.C., at 16. He was on a bus passing through when he “stumbled upon the fact that a march was being held” and joined in.
“I have great memories of it,” Davis said. “Bored to death until Dr. King stood up. Unlike everyone else’s speeches, which were sort of humdrum, his was exciting and exhilarating.
“It wasn’t so much what he said, but the way he said it,” Davis said.
“His rhythm, his charisma, just his delivery. There was something about his voice that was soothing and touching.”
Still, he said, that while the necessary legal and electoral politics work has been done, “we still have problems with the attitudes by Americans ... and how we get people to accept and appreciate and celebrate our differences.”
As for President Barack Obama, Davis said he’d like to see him “speak out more on these controversial racial and cultural issues. Perhaps it would make a greater difference. But our own governor and local leaders could speak out more, too.”
Gov. Gary Herbert called the 1963 march “the biggest march for freedom in the history of the world” that should remind Americans that more work must be done in the next 50 years in what he called “the fierce urgency of now.”
Herbert also reauthorized the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Commission.
The commemoration, which lasted about 40 minutes under a blue sky, white clouds and a half moon, featured the Calvary Baptist Choir singing “Amazing Grace” and “This Little Light of Mine” and a tender rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”
As the crowd of about 200 left the Capitol, spectator Doriena Lee acknowledged the nation has come a long way in the past 50 years.
“But,” she said, “there’s still a long way to go.”