Community leaders and students from Austin College came together Monday morning to honor the memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at the school’s annual breakfast in his honor. The event celebrated its 15th anniversary this year with speeches by students both past and present on the impact King had on their lives.
For the event, organizers with Austin College and the Sherman Rotary Club focused on highlighting the accomplishments of African-American athletes. Each table featured information on a different athlete, ranging from Serena Williams to Alice Coachman Davis, with AC graduate and assistant football coach Tre Stewart serving as the keynote speaker.
“I cannot express to this room how much of an honor it is to be standing in front of you guys today,” Stewart said. “I know everyone says that, but it is truly an honor to be standing before these people in this room at this breakfast.”
This is the second time that Stewart has spoken at the annual breakfast after he served as the student speaker in 2015.
For his speech, Stewart spoke on the opportunities he had as a student at Austin College and the people who made that possible. Now as an adult and a coach, he said he has the same opportunity to impact and change the lives of young athletes for the better.
“This room is full of so many people from so many different walks of life, and my favorite part is that it is full of so many success stories,” he said. “Today I am going to tell you mine and how that plays into what Martin Luther King did for us and specifically for me.”
Stewart said he came to AC for the first time in 2011 when he was looking for a college. At the time, he expected to go to another school instead of AC, but was having second thoughts on whether to continue football following a knee injury or go in another direction with his life.
“My parents were very consistent — God has a plan,” he said. “I do realize I am closer to 17 than most people in here, but at 17, that is the last thing you want to hear. I have a plan also and I would like our plans to be a little closer to each other.”
Throughout his college life and early career, Stewart said he was given many opportunities to succeed thanks to the efforts and support of many people, include King’s work nearly a half-century earlier.
“Just in this decade, we are talking the 2010s, I’ve been able to list countless opportunities that I’ve been blessed with,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard, yes, but a lot of people did a lot for me to be in the exact spot I am today. Every single one of us has someone who paved the way to where we are today.”
Stewart said King served as that person not for just one person but for many generations of African-American children. In turn, this allowed generations of others to pass on those gifts of opportunity to the next generation ahead of them.
“The best part of it is that at the end of the day, you could be some kid’s opportunity,” he said.
This year’s student speech was given by biochemistry junior Erin Adams, who spoke on King’s perseverance and dedication to the cause of equality in the face of opposition.
“Dr. King’s work is an example of even if the odds are against you, you can still achieve your goals,” she said. “Dr. King was a black man born in the Jim Crow era who dared to speak out against racial inequality. Furthermore, through his imprisonment, he was able to influence the minds of the people around him.”
Adams said King’s words on fighting for his dreams against opposition have stuck with her throughout her educational career. This remains true today as Adams continues to study for a career in the sciences — a field where African-American women are historically under-represented.
“Dr. King has been a continuous role model throughout American history and many people, including myself, still look up to him to this very day,” she said. “It makes me wonder if he knew that little black girls and little black boys looked up to him in his lifetime or if he had a taste of his everlasting impact.”