EXCLUSIVE AND VIDEO: Martin Luther King's iconic speech writer encourages Merseyside children to live their dreams

Wirral Globe: Left to right: Peter Byrne, Dr Clarence Jones and Suzanne Collins on Thursday. Picture: Craig Manning Left to right: Peter Byrne, Dr Clarence Jones and Suzanne Collins on Thursday. Picture: Craig Manning

THE co-author of Martin Luther King’s inspirational speech I Have A Dream shared his hopes for youth on both sides of the Atlantic during a special event in Wirral.

Dr Clarence B Jones encouraged his young audience to live their dreams during a question session at the Learning Lighthouse in Leasowe on Thursday night.

On the night youngsters from Northwood Primary School and Hartshill Youth Centre in Liverpool, shared their hopes and dreams with Dr Jones as part of the Keeping The Dream Alive project.

Dr Jones responded via satelite link-up from his office in New York.

Also attending was Angie Churchill, founder of Wirral children’s charity Brightside Foundation. Dr Jones is patron of the organisation, which was set up in memory of Angie's daughter Charlotte.

Angie told the Globe: "Tonight was an amazing and humbling experience, one which will always remain with me, an absolute privilege to be able to see and speak to such a truly inspiring man and to hear his wonderful responses."

The Keeping The Dream Alive project was developed by Oxton-based actress Suzanne Collins, retired youth worker Jim Walsh and Peter Byrne, a friend and confidante of Dr Jones.

It was designed to help young people understand the principles of Dr King’s speech. 

Broadcast by Dr King on August 28, 1963 it focused on the issues of diversity and equality.

He lead the crusade against racism and injustice in the United States in the 1960s. But his campaign came to an end when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

Dr Jones was his legal advisor and draft speechwriter.

Addressing the audience, the 83-year-old, now visting professor of law in residence at the Martin Luther King Jnr Institute of Law at Stanford University in California and co-author of Behind The Dream - The Making of The Speech That Transformed A Nation, said: "The I Have A Dream speech was a call to the conscience of all Americans.

"Dr King dreamed that we can be the very best that we can be. He was confident that all Americans would take heed of the dream.

"Had Dr King been alive today, he would have been 85. I can say that he would be so moved by the dreams that you have expressed. You have given the legacy of Martin Luther King’s message."

He continued: "We need to instil in young people the genuine belief that they are somebody, that they are worth it.

"Adults must help young people to help themselves in the pursuit of their own personal expectations.

"The belief in what they can do lies in what they are willing to try. There's nothing wrong with reaching beyond their capabilities.

"The fact that my parents were domestic servants did not prevent me from trying to be the best I could be."

After the session Suzanne Collins told the Globe: "It was a really emotional event, but I’m relieved that it all went well. I could have exploded with pride, because the children did so well.

"He was like an angel, so calming and so collected.

"He listened to everything they said and hung on their every word. The inspiration he gave these kids was amazing."

Peter Byrne added: "The children and adults had prepared for such a long time for this. They were amazed by Clarence's philanthropy.

"The fact that he gave all the questions the same respect and considered thought speaks volumes.

"If part of his message can get over just what it means to be tolerant in society and respect each other it makes all the difference.

"These kids will be alive in 50 years’ time.

"When they watch films about Martin Luther King, they will be able to say 'I spoke to the man who helped write his speech, and he called me by my first name and thanked me for asking questions.

"It will be a huge boost for them."

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