Students share messages of equality and hope in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Eight elementary school students participated in the finals of the 29th Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in W.H. Adamson High School on Jan. 15.

The law firm Foley & Lardner partners every year with Dallas ISD to organize this districtwide competition. Michael Newman, managing partner of the law firm’s Dallas office, has helped as a judge and organizer for over five years.

Students share messages of equality and hope in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Michael Newman, managing partner of the law firm Foley & Lardner Dallas office, presents the eight finalists of the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition.

While planning this year’s competition, Newman considered the limitations, safety protocols and technological challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Dallas ISD staff showed overwhelming enthusiasm and support when he pitched the idea.

“Trying to put on a competition like this in 2021 is not easy, but this was the most important year to put on this competition; with everything that’s been going on in the world, with the pandemic, with instances of racial injustice and civil unrest, with the economic downturn. We felt that there hasn’t been a more important year to hear the voices of these students, and to allow them to shine light in Dr. King’s legacy,” Newman said. “I leave this event inspired by these kids every day. They’re in front of a very large audience, and every year their message inspires me and makes me feel optimistic about the future of our country.”

The students gave their speeches, one by one, on the stage of the Adamson High School Auditorium. Judges, who were present virtually, listened to the speeches as they were being broadcasted live.

Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall, diversity speaker and founder of Inclusion Nation Michelle Silverthorn, former Dallas Stars player Marty Vincent Turco, and former linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos DeMarcus Ware were the judges. Clarice Tinsley, Fox 4 News anchor, was the master of ceremonies.

After all the speeches, the judges gathered to make a final decision on the winners. All students earned monetary prices, along with a backpack with a tablet.

Below are pictures of the five finalists and the first-, second- and third-place winners of the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition. Click this link to watch the speeches.

First Place: Dominic Patermo

Dominic Patermo, a fifth-grade student at Harry C. Withers Elementary, gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.

Second Place: Zoe Frazier

Zoe Frazier, a fourth grade student at J.P. Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.

Third Place: Dinastee McKinney

Dinastee McKinney, a fifth grade student at Clara Oliver Elementary gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.

The Finalists

Gregory Anderson, a fifth grade student at Urban Park Elementary gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.
Cortlin Harbert, a fourth grade student at Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.
Ni’Kyah Levelston, a fifth grade student at Ronald E. McNair Elementary gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.
Jessie Washington, a fifth grade student at Charles Rice Learning Center gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.
Jamari Williams, a fourth grade student at Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary gives a speech during the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, which took place in the W.H. Adamson High School auditorium, on January 15th, 2021.
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