Fourth-grader Jasira King wins top prize in MLK Jr. Oratory finals

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The winner of the 27th annual Dallas Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition is Jasira King, a fourth-grader at William Brown Miller Elementary School.

Competitors write, memorize and deliver the speeches based on the theme. This year, students were asked to provide their takes on “What would Dr. Martin Luther King say to the children of today’s world?”

King said Dr. King would equate life to running a relay marathon, that each leg has a responsibility to carry the baton of hope on their own course the best they can. She said the civil rights leader would also apologize that things hadn’t become that much better during the past 60 years.

” ‘I’m sorry that the light of love has not been strong enough to overcome the darkness of despair,’ ” she imagined he would say, blaming a lack of commitment to change on today’s adults. “He would apologize to us children that the people of this world have allowed the fear of our differences to be greater than the faith in our commonality.” See King deliver her entire speech here.

She follows in the footsteps of her three older siblings, who also competed in the competition in years past. Chinelo King won the 2013 contest; Etana King was a finalist in 2014 and the winner in 2015; and Asad King took third place in 2017 and was a finalist again in 2018.

David King told The Dallas Morning News that all four of his children enjoyed the competition, from researching Dr. King’s words to delivering their own takes on them. “It’s such a relief after she finished because I’m wrecked with nerves the whole time,” he said.

The second-place finisher is Tory Robertson Jr. of Clara Oliver Elementary School; third place went to Tynia Matts, a fifth-grader at John Neely Bryan Elementary School.

Campus winners from the 16 participating schools advanced to the semifinals, which were conducted in December. The top eight in that round advanced to the finals. The remaining five finalists are:

• Kaiya Hudson, fifth grade, Charles Rice Learning Center
• Layla James, fifth grade, Ronald E. McNair Elementary
• Presley Rivers, fifth grade, Harry C. Withers Elementary
• Kimberli Rouwtt, fourth grade, J.P. Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard
• Alexandra Torres, fifth grade, Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary

You can find all their speeches here.

The event is sponsored by law firm Foley Gardere.

Check out a segment about the competition in Dallas and Houston on Good Morning America, broadcast on Monday, Jan. 21, here.

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