Sparrow Caldwell’s Speech at SMU’s Historical Plaque Dedication Ceremony

Transcript of Sparrow Caldwell’s speech at SMU on Tuesday February 21, 2023

On February 21, 2023, nearly 57 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to over 2,700 people in SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium, SMU unveiled a Texas Historical Marker to celebrate this important moment in SMU’s history at a dedication ceremony called Preserving the Moment.

Tower Scholar Sparrow Caldwell spoke at the dedication ceremony. She was a representative of fellow committee members, who drafted proposals and applications through SMU Student Senate and the Texas Historical Commission to make the plaque a reality. The following is a transcript of her speech.

Good Evening, My name is Sparrow Caldwell and I am a very proud graduating senior with an earth science and political science degree in May. Even more importantly, I am a proud Black third-generation Mustang who had the amazing opportunity to serve as our African American senator during the 2020-2021 school year. Recognizing the turmoil our country was going through, I was blessed with the chance to make a difference by collaborating with my peers in bringing this historical plaque dedication to the campus of Southern Methodist University. For most students at SMU, we recognize how easily a dream can quickly become a reality. Whether that be through the strength we foster and depend on amongst students or the strength of advice and resources we receive from our wonderful faculty and staff, or like this project: a strong mixture of both.

I always love to highlight how this invitation for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come speak at McFarlin was made possible by students. Mostly because these were and are students who recognized the power of their own voice in a world where they had been told to be silent. These are students who realized that what happened here on March 17, 1966 was not only necessary but dire for the community. And that took an immense amount of courage considering the times. In my opinion, these are students who really know what it means to be a world changer, and also, what it means to have a dream.

I say this because when we talk about Rev. Dr. King Jr., we talk a lot about dreams. and what we need to do to in order to achieve them. And despite the title of this poem I am reading to you today, this marker is a reminder that we are taking the first step against a dream deferred but like the title of this poem we must remember to keep working towards better for fear that the dream will die.

I read to you Harlem by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

As a proud world changer, this marker is a reminder that it is our responsibility to ensure student dreams are nurtured and supported so that they will not be deferred. Thank you so much for listening to a student’s dream.

A plaque commemorating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's visit to SMU

To learn more about the work the students did to make the Historical Marker a reality, click here and read, Students Now: Carrying the Torch.