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Essay Contest

2007 Essay Contest Winners

Once a Dream, Never Lost

By Katie Burns-Davis

Discrimination still exists in the present day, but on August 28,1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. declaimed a speech that would impact the United States for years to come. The "1 Have a Dream" speech, outlined a vision of utopia, a perfect dream for an imperfect society. Dr. King joined the ranks of dreamers and philosophers dating back to man's first thoughts of peace and commitment to a fulfilling life.

Discrimination and prejudice affect many people even today, not just African American people, but also people of different races, religions and nationalities. Again and again we see violence as a failure to achieve mutual respect on diverse subjects. Dr. King said, "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." He chose to deliver his message of love in the language of the Bible, but the message was universal. To use the metaphors of night and stars allowed Dr. King to speak: to a larger audience using the natural world as a tool of education.

Discrimination automatically puts people in harm's way because it fosters an underlying anger that simmers below the surface as the perception of unfairness grows. The Montgomery Bus Boycott provides a classic example of a commonly accepted event, a non-white citizen moving to the back of a public bus. Not moving to the back of the bus seems a simple matter, but its very simplicity made it a wonderful and easily comprehended example. The intense response to a simple gesture showed how much anger was brewing just below the surface of everyday Southern society.

Discrimination was a topic for Dr. King, but the larger theme was equal rights. Laws were changed, but the attitudes of individuals were still in place. Respect and common decency cannot be made law; the change must take place in the heart. Dr. King recognized the humanizing of common people in their everyday activities would make his message understandable to the rest of the United States. Simple, everyday actions could become larger than life when performed and documented. Sitting in the "wrong" seat on a bus or in the "wrong" seat at a lunch counter became dramatic examples of humanity.

Discrimination continues to affect many lives today. 1 am a Mexican-American citizen and even today people will ask me specific questions based on my physical appearance. Do they judge me as a non-white member of American society? Or as a productive student who has college aspirations? Sometimes I do not know the answer to either question. But 1 do know that participating in religious services, being an active member of my school community, and volunteering my energies and talents go a long way to counteracting the effects of discrimination. And like Dr. King, I look to the stars to shed constant light on the darkness of our own prejudices so the night can be illuminated and the skies opened up for all people to see the truth. We are one.

                         

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2007 MLK Essay Contest Winner 7-9 Grades

Livier Perez , Center

           

Discrimination by Livier Perez

Many people think: discrimination is something that happened a long time ago, but the truth is that discrimination is still a big issue in our country. It breaks my heart to see how people discriminate against others just because of the color of their skin, how much money they have or don't have, their sexual preference, or because of their customs and religion. Just last week in the news a Mexican man was beaten down by two police officers because he ran away scared. After September 11TH, 2001 U.S. citizens from the Middle East have been stopped, searched, and harassed simply because they "could be" terrorists. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." He was a minister, a thinker, and a civil rights leader and he worked for peace and equal rights for all people. Just as he did so much to stop discrimination so must we.

On December 2,1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks was arrested because she refused to get up so that a white man could sit down. At the Holt Street Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr. led a meeting to explain that the whole bus belonged to everyone and that it was time for black people to do something to help themselves. They organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott and found other transportation. Some people drove together in the same car; others walked, took cabs, or rode mules. The boycott worked. The bus company started losing money and the law was changed so that people of all races could sit in the\bus together.

Although King and many other black leaders were beaten, arrested and imprisoned, he told people not to fight back. "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already with devoid of stars ... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that," he said. He wanted civil rights workers to fight with their minds not their fists. The boycott was just the start of the Civil Rights Movement. They planned sit-ins to let people know that things needed to change. They stopped obeying segregation laws in many cities and Martin Luther King II was arrested for giving them the idea. In 1963, King led a march to Washington, D.C. where he gave his greatest speech. He told millions of people about his dream which spread across America and in 1964, new laws promising equal rights to all Americans were passed.

I believe in the same ideas Martin Luther King II had. One way I contribute is by being a peer advisor. I help people so they can peacefully resolve any issues they have with one another. We sit down at a table and each person has a turn to talk without interruption. We try to work out an agreement between them. We all need to come together and help one another stand up for and defend each other. Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize-the greatest proof that nonviolence is the best way to solve the world's biggest problems.

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MKL Essay Contest Winner 5-6 Grades

Meera Benson, Center

Martin Luther King II

By Meera Benson

If you look in your American history book, you will definitely find Martin Luther King II because he was a very important man. He fought for equal rights and freedom, and he stopped segregation against black people. His achievement has touched every person in someway and has made our country a better place.

Martin Luther King II was a motivated preacher and an excellent speaker. One of his most famous speeches was his “ I Have a Dream speech. He gave it in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28,1963. It was the final speech in a large political rally called the March for Jobs and Freedom. Between 200,000 and 500,000 people Came, and four out of five were black. His speech was a powerful eye opener to the ugly truth of unequal rights and freedom for black people. It was a strong turning point in American history.

Martin Luther King II always stood up for what was right. In 1955 Rosa Parks, a black woman in Alabama refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus that she was riding. Rosa was thrown in Jail. Martin Luther King II was outraged and knew it was wrong to incarcerate Rosa Parks for her behavior. As a result, King did something about it. He started a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Black people walked everywhere instead of using buses to get around town. This was a hardship to black people, but they knew it was the right thing to do. They marched around for 381 days holding signs in a nonviolent protest. Eventually, the town of Montgomery gave in and the buses were segregated.

Never in the history of black segregation has someone done so many amazing things. Martin Luther King Jr. changed life in the United States forever. His perseverance and his nonviolent protests paved the Way to a great country. We no longer have white only phones, playgrounds, restaurants, restrooms, and water fountains. We don't go to jail if we refuse to give up our seat. It has also taught us that freedom is important to everyone, regardless if you are black or white. Thanks to him the United States is a better place to live.

Martin Luther King Jr. has influenced my life also. If it wasn't for desegregation my mom couldn't have married my dad, and I wouldn't have been born. I wouldn't have my two wonderful sisters and I wouldn't have some of the friends I have today. I also wouldn’t be able to enjoy the music of Mariah Carey, Norah Jones and Alicia Keys. I wouldn’t be able to watch movies with Halle Berry. The whole world has been affected by him some just don’t realize it.

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