“We all have the power, in our own spheres of influence, to make a difference, to fulfill the hopes, prayers and dreams of Dr. King.” With these words, Zihair Douglas, a fifth-grade student at Thomas L. Marsalis STEAM Academy, ended the speech that would ultimately have him win the Dallas MLK Oratory final on January 13. For this year’s competition, eight Dallas ISD students delivered original speeches addressing the topic: “What would Dr. King say to us today about hope for tomorrow?”
In his speech, Zihair included a sharp critique of current policy changes limiting voting access, immigration, abortion and education, lamenting that some elected officials use their power “to injure, deprive, and demean the very persons and communities they were elected to serve and support.” He combined this with a call to action for people to “make intelligent decisions that will positively improve the lives of people from all cultures and backgrounds.” He concluded that Dr. King would be proud of a new generation of Americans who “stand up, advocate and support what we think is right and fair.”
This year was Zihair’s second participation in the MLK oratory competition final, as he was also a finalist in last year’s competition. Sasha Greene, a TAG teacher at Marsalis STEAM Academy and Zihair’s sponsor for the competition, highlighted his dedication to getting his speech right. “Over the past three months, we practiced maybe two or three times a day. He’s put a lot of work into memorizing his speech and saying it very well,” said Ms. Greene.
Alongside Zihair, Mohamad Mohamad, a fifth-grader at Elisha M. Pease Elementary, placed second, and Bria Hider, a fifth-grader at J.P. Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard, placed third.
For 31 years, the MLK oratory competition has inspired elementary students in Dallas and other cities to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. By partaking in this event, students improve their writing and public speaking skills and, as . and highlight their communities’ cultural diversity and talent.
See Zihair deliver his entire speech here.