King's Speech: Austin students keep MLK's dream alive in local oratorycompetition
"I had a dream. A dream about Martin Luther King, Jr. In my dream, he was sad because his dream never came true. He looks at our world today, and wonders: What happened?"
These stirring words were the opening lines of fourth grader Alejandro Urista's speech delivered Wednesday night at the 7th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition held at Huston-Tillotson's King-Seabrook Chapel. Urista was one of eight elementary school finalists chosen to perform in this annual competition, which is part of the celebration events put on each year by the Austin Area Heritage Council.
The competition is co-sponsored by the Gardere Wynne Sewell law firm, Child Inc., and the Heritage Council, with a $1000 U.S. Savings Bond up for grabs to the lucky winner. "It's our hope that the competition provides these students with, not only their first experiences with public speaking, but also an opportunity to reach their educational goals," said Gardere spokesman Ed Burbach before the competition commenced.
Burbach also introduced the illustrious panel of six judges, which included the Honorable Wilhelmina Delco, the first African-American elected official in Austin and Travis County; and the Honorable Wallace Jefferson, the first African-American Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. The panel represented lawyers, educators and veterans, all heroes in their given fields.
Gardere began the MLK Oratory Competition in 1993 in Dallas in the spirit of honoring Dr. King's memory and emphasis on education. After instilling the annual tradition in Houston as well, Gardere teamed up with the Heritage Council to give Austin area elementary students the same exciting opportunity.
The eight finalists were asked to present their five minute speeches, answering the question: "As a student of Dr. King's life, what message of hope do you think he would have for the world today?" With clarity and wisdom beyond their years, the students shared their perceptions of their communities and peers, offering advice on what steps we need to take next to further Dr. King's message.
"We need each other's differences to make a well rounded world," said L. L. Campbell Elementary fifth grader Zakia Faultry. "We have to start seeing the beauty inside instead of what's on the outside."
Huston-Tillotson student James Cobb served as the ceremony's emcee, introducing each of the competitors and inquiring what profession each student planned to pursue through education. Three students professed their plans to be doctors; two planned to be veterinarians; two more, engineers; and one, a future Marine. No lawyers or clergy in the crew, but all will benefit from the new skills they learned.
"Dr. King taught love and tolerance through his speeches," Burbach reminds us. "Making sure these kids continue their education and strive to be their best is the most important thing we can offer the future."
Listening to the fearless statements of students like Faultry and Urista, it is comforting to know that we are in the hands of a generation that still endeavors to keep MLK's dream alive.
The Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition is the first in a series of celebration events put on by the Austin Area Heritage Council. On Saturday, the community will gather at Huston-Tillotson University for the MLK Day of Service and then at the Austin Community College Multipurpose Room on Webberville Road for the MLK Youth Scholarship Awards. On Monday, when MLK Day is observed in the City of Austin, MLK March will begin at the statue of MLK on UT's campus and head to Huston-Tillotson for the MLK Community Festival. Everyone is welcome to attend all of these important events.