MLK Oratory Competition

Students honor Martin Luther King's memory with powerful speeches that encourage positive change

Students honor King's memory with powerful speeches encouraging change

The words of freedom rang from 250 young contestants during the 19th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition as Cornelius Elementary School fifth-grader Chase Roberts was declared the winner, just in time to celebrate Martin Luther King  Day.

 Contestants each gave an inspirational speech suggested by this year's topic,"If Dr. King were to win the Nobel Peace Prize today, what would he say?”.  

Roberts, along with 12 other fourth and fifth-graders selected to compete in the finals, gave an inspirational four-minute speech suggested by this year's topic, "If Dr. King were to win the Nobel Peace Prize today, what would he say?”.

Roberts encouraged the audience to live as brothers and sisters, to act, instead of react and to use social media "to encourage, not to endanger."

Shakeira Hayes, a fifth-grader from Pleasantville Elementary School, placed second, while fifth-grader Isabel Serna of Crespo Elementary Elementary took home third-place honors in the Houston ISD-wide event.

The finals took place at the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Houston with 24 advancing to a preliminary round, during which the top half-dozen students moved on to the last stage of the competition.

The contest, designed by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP to pay tribute to the late civil rights leader, highlights the cultural diversity of the community and encourages the writing and speaking skills of young, future leaders. Speeches were evaluated on delivery, stage presence and decorum, content interpretation and memorization. 

Watch Roberts in the video above and listen to his moving oratory.

Chase Roberts, 5th grader from Cornelius Elementary, performs his winning speech at the 19th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition on Jan. 16, 2015.
Chase Roberts performs his winning speech at the 19th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition. Photo by Kim Coffman
Second-place winner Shakeira Hayes, 5th grader from Pleasantville Elementary; Event Chair and Gardere Operating Partner Claude Treece; First-place winner Chase Roberts, 5th grader from Cornelius Elementary; Gardere Partner Stephen Moll; Third-place winner
Second-place winner Shakeira Hayes, from left, Claude Treece, Chase Roberts, Stephen Moll and third-place winner Isabel Serna. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Chase Roberts, 5th grader from Cornelius Elementary, performs his winning speech at the 19th Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition on Jan. 16, 2015.
Second-place winner Shakeira Hayes, 5th grader from Pleasantville Elementary; Event Chair and Gardere Operating Partner Claude Treece; First-place winner Chase Roberts, 5th grader from Cornelius Elementary; Gardere Partner Stephen Moll; Third-place winner