DURHAM — Students, staff and faculty from all walks of life gathered on the Great Lawn at the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday to help the nation commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington, D.C.
On college campuses and in communities around the country, bells rang out for freedom at 3 p.m. following similar ceremonies.
A silence fell over the crowd gathered on the Thompson Hall lawn as the bells tolled, and cheers rang out as they stopped.
A group of students and staff representing a variety of ethnicities, genders and backgrounds recited Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and talked with each other about what those words mean to them today.
UNH President Mark Huddleston was 12-years-old when King gave his speech, but recognized that most of those gathered were not yet born.
Their presence on the lawn was a testament to the power of King's words, he said, and the life Martin Luther King Jr. led.
UNH Professor of Education Bruce Mallory said the idea of solidarity is central to remembering King's legacy.
Echoing King's words in a "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Mallory said no one is truly free or truly able to realize their destiny until all people are able to do likewise.
UNH junior and student body president Bryan Merrill, 20, said it was an honor to read King's words and to take part in the day's ceremony.
"When I think about the words, it reminds me I come from a place of privilege, and not to turn my back. Even after all these years there is still progress to be made and I'm happy to help make future progress," Merrill said.
UNH joined 25 communities across New Hampshire in commemorating the day, and bells tolled from as far as the White Mountain National Observatory.