As part of the All-University Convocation speech series on Jan. 19, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. came to K-State and spoke to students and faculty about racial segregation in the United States.
Finally, 43 years later his speech was aired again in the Alumni Center’s ballroom to around 500 students, faculty and community members.
Galyn Vesey, project director of Research on Black Wichita, donated the tapes of King’s K-State speech to the university. Along with Vesey, a panel of speakers gave their reactions and recollections of King’s speech.
George Haley, retired state senator and U.S. ambassador, Homer Floyd, retired executive director of Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and William Boyer, professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, were on the stage with King during his visit to K-State. Boyer, who was trapped in Philadelphia due to snow, Skype’d in to the event, telling the audience about picking King up from Kansas City and escorting him to Manhattan.
“As he spoke, I became mesmerized by the power and elegance of his words,” Boyer said to the crowd. “It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.”
Guests ate lunch while King’s speech was played. Students were able to sit in during the speech and the panel discussion after.
“I was excited to hear this. It’s something that is monumental, something important to attend,” said Cortnee Shropshire, attendee of the event.
While the speech was played a PowerPoint of pictures from the day of the speech were shown. Fire destroyed the original recording and pictures in Nichols hall. Dan Lykins, member of the Kansas Board of Regents, asked for any pictures or video from the speech in his opening remarks from anyone who was there or had relatives present.
“It was almost an incredible experience that it would be as emotional as it was today,” Haley said. “The speech is still very meaningful and significant today and many of the major elements still need to be dealt with.”
Guests listened to Floyd and Haley’s memories of King and his visit to K-State. Many people had to leave, due to Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s speech. A few people were able to stay and talk to the panel afterward and ask more questions about King and the speech.
“When I heard it, I almost felt as if I was there,” said Vuna Adams III, freshman in accounting and finanace.
Myra Gordon, associate provost, hosted the event and arranged for the speakers to be there.
“I was so absorbed — almost transfixed — and so deeply, deeply moved to hear Dr. King speaking; not because I haven’t heard his speeches before, but this was our speech,” Gordon said.
The room filled with laughter during parts of King’s speech.
“Our goal is freedom and I believe we are going to get that because no matter how much we stray away from that, America’s goal is freedom,” King said.
A standing ovation was given during King’s final remarks in his speech.
“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last,” King said.