Long Lasting Impact Of King Speech Inspires OU Professor To Spearhead Anniversary Program

Atish Baidya

Updated Thu, Aug 29, 2013 4:07 pm
Photo Credit: 
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The dream Martin Luther King Jr. laid out 50 years ago proved to be a profound moment for Ohio University music professor Peter Jarjisian, then a high school senior in his home town of Philadelphia.

"I stood up, I was all alone at home that day," Jarjisian recalled.  "I stood up out of my chair and said, 'Wow, that is the kind of country I want to live in.'  So that deep feeling stayed with me and has been a part of my life ever since."

He may have never turned on television coverage of the March on Washington if it wasn't for his favorite band; Peter, Paul and Mary.  The group performed their song "If I Had a Hammer" at the march.

"I heard they were going to be at this major event at Washington D.C. and that was the whole reason I tuned into the television that day," he said.

As a young man growing up in the turbulent 1960's, Jarjisian's only real contact with the civil rights movement up until then had  been from learning about events through the news.

"In the news what one would hear about would typically be problems that would come up,"  Jarjisian said.  "So it was easy to be lured into a somewhat prejudicial viewpoint."

But his parents, who where children of Armenian immigrants, tempered that lure with ideas and values that represented the best of America's promises.

"We would have conversations about fairness and equality and so on,"  Jarjisian said.  "My parents were very good at leading me to think of all people being equal."

Jarjisian says the 50th anniversary isn't just a moment to look back into the past, but a moment to use King's vision to look forward into the future.  Jarjisian spearheaded the effort to put together a program at OU that not only honored the anniversary of the march but would serve as a tool to educate a new generation of young people on the lesson Dr. King preached.

"How can we treat people kindly," he said.  "How can we solve problems? How can we find patience in ourselves to be willing to listen to someone else's point of view? If dreams like he [King] taked about ever come to fruition its the responsiblity of each of us.  The job is never done."