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The Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative at Georgetown University invites Georgetown community members and the greater Washington, DC, community to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the annual Legacy of a Dream Award, which is presented to an impactful community leader; the signature Let Freedom Ring Celebration tribute concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and additional community events dedicated to the modern application of Dr. King’s legacy, such as the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service’s annual “Teach the Speech” event.

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The Legacy of a Dream Award Anchor

The Legacy of a Dream Award

The John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award — named for the legendary Georgetown head basketball coach emeritus, Washington, DC, native, mentor, advocate and community leader — is awarded each year to an individual or group that has demonstrated outstanding service in Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition of being people for others.

Since 2003, past recipients — including civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Rev. Joseph Lowery, children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman and humanitarian Dikembe Mutombo (C’91) — have included national and international civil rights and humanitarian leaders in recognition of a lifetime of achievement.

In 2012, the university awarded and celebrated an emerging local leader, Life Pieces to Masterpieces co-founder Mary Brown, to reinforce the university’s commitment to engagement within Washington, DC. The award has become a “talent-identifier” among the city’s most inspirational community leaders who are working to solve key issues responsible for shaping the city and the people who live in it.

A year’s commitment and sustained partnership with Georgetown also come with the award that allows winners to leverage the honor for broader recognition for their community organization or cause.

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Let Freedom Ring Celebration

Each year, Georgetown and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a free musical tribute. The annual concert features a headlining performance by a legendary musical artist and special music by Nolan Williams, Jr., music producer and commissioned composer.

The annual concert event builds on the success of the first joint program in January 2003, which featured the legendary Roberta Flack and attracted more than 5,000 patrons. The second, held in August of 2003, commemorated the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and featured actor, civil rights leader and 2004 Kennedy Center Honoree, Ossie Davis.

Past concerts have featured Jessye Norman in 2004; Aaron Neville in 2005; Yolanda Adams in 2006 and in 2016; Brian McKnight in 2007; Denyce Graves in 2008; Kennedy Center Honoree Aretha Franklin in 2009; India.Arie in 2010; Patti LaBelle in 2011; Bobby McFerrin in 2012; Smokey Robinson in 2013; Dionne Warwick in 2014; Natalie Cole in 2015; Gladys Knight in 2017; Vanessa Williams in 2018; Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell in 2019; and Chaka Khan in 2020.

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Community Events

Each year, Georgetown honors the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a series of events on campus and in the greater Washington, DC, community that reflect the university’s Catholic and Jesuit values of contemplation in action, cura personalis — care of the person — and being people for others.

The Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service (CSJ) encourages members of the Georgetown community to reflect on one of Dr. King’s famous speeches through Teach the Speech. Over the years, faculty, staff and students across campus have participated in Teach the Speech events focusing on a wide range of speeches by Dr. King.

The CSJ also sponsors the Legacy of a Dream Internship Program, through which Georgetown undergraduate students can intern with DC-based community organizations whose leaders have been recognized by the university’s annual John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award.

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Past Award Recipients

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