Rice reflects on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at annual vigil and celebration

Mayor Turner, President Leebron highlight importance of recognizing life of civil rights activist

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner delivered the keynote speech at Rice University’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight Vigil and Celebration Jan. 20, as participants packed the pews of the Rice Memorial Chapel to pay tribute to the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.

“I am standing on the campus of Rice University tonight as the mayor of the fourth largest city in the country and let me tell you something: Even when life is unfair, if you hold to the course, if you don’t give up, if you don’t throw in the towel, things will get better,” Turner told the crowd. “And when good people stand up, it will get better.”

Rice president David Leebron’s opening remarks thanked the university’s Black Male Leadership Initiative for hosting and organizing the event.

“It is indeed important that we at Rice pause to recognize this day and reflect on its meaning for us as individuals, as a university, as a city, a state, a nation and a world,” Leebron said.

Passionate performances by the Phillip Hall Singers and Rice’s student gospel choir, Melodious Voices of Praise, echoed within the chapel between speeches by students and staff alike.

“When I think about Dr. King, we all think about his famous speeches like ‘I Have a Dream’ or ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,’ and we think about the feeling those speeches invoke in us, especially those of us who are African American or of African descent like Dr. King himself,” said Hanszen College junior Summar McGee, president of Rice’s Black Student Association.

Recognizing the theme of the vigil, “Achieving Success by Working Together,” McGee continued: “We think about things like hope and determination, but I think his legacy highlights more so than anything else a spirit of collective responsibility.”

Joining arms, attendees sang the gospel hymn and civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” before adjourning to the Farnsworth Pavilion in the Ley Student Center for a reception.

“Dr. King dreamt,” said Jones College freshman Drew Carter, “so that I and all of us could have a better life.”

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.