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Fourth Grader Wins Dallas MLK Oratory Competition

MLK Oratory winners cropped.jpg
BJ Austin, KERA

A student from John Neely Bryan Elementary is the winner of this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratory Competition in Dallas. Eight finalists performed their original speeches at the Majestic Theatre.

The assignment for the competition: if you could talk directly to Dr. King about your dreams for the future, what would you tell him?

“If I, Chinelo King, could speak directly to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about my hope and dreams for our world, the first thing I would say is thank you. Thank you for being a courageous voice to speak up for civil rights,” King said as he began his speech.

That speech by the fourth grader was judged the best for content, delivery, decorum and stage presence. Chinelo King used his dream of becoming an architectural engineer to illustrate his hopes for a better world. 

“Let’s use our tool belts to work together to build a better world," King challenged. "Let’s use our hammers to pound out this bullying business. Grade school children picking on each other.” 

Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker found inspiration in the children's performances. 

“I can remember the first time I got recognition for doing well and how that changed everything for me," Parker said at the close of the competition. "And I look at them knowing that this moment today, knowing that they’re good at something, is just going to change everything for them.”

Aolani Hill, a fifth grader from Wilmer Hutchins Elementary took second place.  Third place went to Leah Wizeman, in the fourth grade at Harry C. Withers Elementary. 

This is the 21st year for the oratory contest created by the law firm Gardere Wynn Sewell as a way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.