Students Impress Community with Inspiring Words in 18th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition

05 January 2010 News

Speech competition, co-presented by Dallas ISD, commemorates legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 18th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition will be held at The Majestic Theatre in Dallas on Friday, Jan. 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Incorporating ideals from Dr. King's writings and speeches, eight fourth- and fifth-grade students will present original essays addressing the topic: “What will I be able to achieve in my life because of what Dr. King achieved in his?”

Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP will present, host and sponsor the 18th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition, co-presented by Dallas ISD, in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to encourage the community to remember and pay tribute to the late civil rights leader's legacy. The firm established the annual competition in Dallas in 1993 to highlight the cultural diversity of the community while acknowledging and encouraging the writing and speaking skills of elementary school students. The event's success led to the establishment in 1997 of the competition in Houston.

Leading by example, these talented orators step up to the podium to demonstrate how Dr. King's legacy has impacted their characters and has helped them establish a blueprint for their futures, noted Steve Good, Gardere managing partner. The oratory competition presents participants with the challenge to reflect on the late civil rights leaders' dreams and show how his words relate to their own lives and to society in general.

Students from 15 Dallas ISD schools participated in earlier in-school preliminary competitions and semifinals to earn one of eight finalist spots. The young speakers are judged on the content of their speeches, memorization and overall presentation.

The 2010 competition has nearly doubled in size this year, expanding from eight to 15 Dallas ISD schools to include: S.S. Conner Elementary, Urban Park Elementary, Kiest Elementary, Amelia Earhart Learning Center, Jerry R. Junkins Elementary, Onesimo Hernandez Elementary, Arlington Park Community Learning Center, Charles Rice Learning Center, H.S. Thompson Learning Center, J.P. Starks Elementary, John Neely Bryan Elementary, Clara Oliver Elementary, R.L. Thornton Elementary, T.L. Marsalis Elementary and Thomas Tolbert Elementary.

The 18th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition kicks off at 11 a.m. at the Majestic Theatre. The first-place winner will receive a $1,000 savings bond, and the second- and third-place winners and remaining finalists will all receive savings bonds of varying amounts. The competition is free and open to the public. Dallas ISD Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa and Board President Adam Medrano will attend to lend their support to the young competitors.

Past winners of the Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition have offered inspiring perspectives on promoting diversity. Sarah-Elizabeth Thompson, a fifth-grader at Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary School, captured the 17th annual Dallas competition with a speech thanking Dr. King for inspiring change so that our skin is no longer our sin. However, in pointing to the pride she would have felt over the coming inauguration, the 10-year-old emphasized the need to continue to work hard and demand more because "knowledge is free, you just have to bring your own container."

In 2008, Dalton Sherman showcased Dr. King's dream to millions of Americans across the country. In addition to reciting his competition speech at an event honoring Dr. Maya Angelou, Sherman became a YouTube sensation with his oratory skills and went on to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show.