Young orators speak vision at finals of annual MLK Oratory Competition


“How do you think Dr. King’s teachings can help us today?”

That is the question eight Dallas ISD fourth and fifth graders will answer on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth date as they contend in the finals of the 29th annual MLK Oratory Competition.

The event, held virtually this year, will be livestreamed on the district’s website and on Facebook Live at 11 a.m., Friday, Jan. 15. The students’ inspiring speeches will be the high point of a monthslong process in which—in spite of the pandemic—dozens of students at 13 district schools participated by penning, memorizing and reciting their original essays on the assigned topic. Criteria for judging include delivery, stage presence, and content interpretation and memorization.

The annual program, sponsored by the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, aims to recognize and encourage the writing and oratory skills of elementary students. It is a celebration of cultural diversity and an opportunity to spotlight talented Dallas ISD students as they learn about the teachings of Dr. King.

Past years’ winners and participants have delivered their speeches to local and national audiences, making MLK Day appearances at city celebrations and appearing on local and national television programs, including CBS’ The Early Show, Fox 26 News, Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

In addition to the student speakers, the final competition will feature remarks from Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and representatives from Foley & Gardner LLP, Fox 4 News anchor Clarice Tinsley hosting remotely, and a number of VIP community, civic and business leaders who will serve as judges.

Student winners of the competition will receive cash awards and gifts.

This year’s young orators are:

Gregory Anderson, 5th Grade, Urban Park Elementary

Zoe Frazier, 4th grade, J.P. Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard

Cortlin Harbert, 4th grade, Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary

Ni’Kyah Levelston, 5th grade, Ronald E. McNair Elementary

Dinaste McKinney, 5th grade, Clara Oliver Elementary

Dominic Patermo, 5th grade, Harry C. Withers Elementary

Jessie Washington, 5th grade, Charles Rice Elementary

Jamari Williams, 4th grade, Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary


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